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Employment Law Update

lawupdateThis issue, we start with a look at the recent changes to compensation limits, fair redundancy selection, religious symbols at work and more:

Changes to Compensation Limits

February 1st sees some important changes to compensatory limits in the Employment Tribunal. Firstly, the maximum compensatory award increases from £63,000 to £66,000. Also, the maximum redundancy payment increases from £9,900 to £10,500, and the cap on a week's pay for redundancy calculation purposes is increased from £330 to £350.

The current downturn may mean that those who are made redundant may also find it difficult to find work. Compensation in the Tribunal is calculated based on the loss incurred by the claimant, and if work is hard to find, the loss will be considerably higher.

Redundancy Selection

A recent case involving a Medical Transport Services company addresses the need for fair redundancy selection. In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) confirmed that the use of a completely subjective selection system led to an unfair redundancy.

It was noted that there was a complete lack of consultation when deciding upon the method of selection for redundancy and the criteria to be adopted. Also, the person who had carried out the selection criteria marking was not able to support his marking by reference to any company documents, such as performance appraisals.

A fair redundancy process:

The key is to group those employees who carry our similar duties, and then discuss the criteria to be used with them.  It’s also suggested that several senior staff carry out the marking process, with referral to company documents.

Wearing Religious Symbols in the Workplace

The issue of religious symbols in the workplace is among the most controversial areas in employment law. We look at a case where an airline company insisted that an employee concealed the crucifix on her necklace underneath her uniform.  The employee, in question, had claimed loss of salary while staying at home and refused to return to work until she was permitted to wear her cross openly.

The EAT ruled that the airline did not act in a way which pointed towards indirect discrimination, as there was no evidence that a sufficient number of people, other than the employee in question, shared her strong religious view that she should be allowed visibly to wear the cross. The EAT also noted that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that the company policy put Christians “at a particular disadvantage”. However since this case, the airline company has changed its policy to allow all religious symbols to be worn openly.

And finally... Sexual Orientation and Harassment

The following case will highlight how the sexual orientation of a victim of harassment is irrelevant; it will still be seen as an offence. Mr English alleged harassment on the grounds that he was tormented by work colleagues with homophobic banter and innuendo. He also claimed that this is what had driven him to leave his job.

The Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed his claim, and stated that he was not homosexual and his colleagues did not perceive him to be either, and so the Sexual Orientation Regulations did not apply. After this outcome, Mr English approached the Court of Appeal which held that his sexual orientation was irrelevant. The Court stated: "the incessant mockery created a degrading and hostile working environment, and it did so on grounds of sexual orientation..."

  • 1st February 2009
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