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Employment Law Update

BullyingJudy Veakins, who was usually a strong woman by nature, felt as though she had been victimised and demoralised by her supervisor, and as a result became clinically depressed and eventually left her job. She decided to take her claim to the County Court - under the Protection from Harassment Act 1979, but her claim failed on the basis that the conduct was not so bad that a criminal prosecution could have been brought.

Veakins then appealed to the Court of Appeal and won. The Court of Appeal held that the correct test was not whether the conduct was criminal, but whether it was "oppressive and unacceptable".

British workplaces are really not beset in many instances by physical violence. On the other hand, more verbal behaviour is more common. So, for example, if you ask people about rude and disrespectful behaviour, around 13 per cent in a survey said it happened for them every week, and a similar 12 per cent said they felt intimidated every week at work.

Employee's conduct contributed to dismissal - 100% reduction in compensation

The following case presents a good example of how an Employment Tribunal can help employers, who have failed to follow the correct dismissal procedure (making the dismissal unfair), where it is clear that dismissal would have occurred even if the correct procedure had been followed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal dismissed Mr Kristapaitis' appeal against an employment tribunal’s decision not to give him any compensation after finding his dismissal automatically unfair, under the (now obsolete) statutory dismissal procedure.

Mr Kristapaitis, who worked for a fish processing company, was dismissed when it had been discovered that his hands were heavily contaminated with e-coli bacteria. His employers concluded that this was because Mr K had not washed his hands properly after using the toilet, despite prior warning.
The EAT supported the Tribunal's decision to make a 100% reduction in compensation, because of the extent to which the claimant had contributed to his own dismissal.

Dress codes

Does enforcement of a gender-specific dress code amount to discrimination? Our last case finds out.

A. Dansie, a male police officer, reported to his training with shoulder-length hair tied back in a bun.  The code required recruits to wear hair above the collar or, if long, fastened close to the head. He was initially allowed to wear his hair this way but, when he started training, he was told to get his hair cut.  Mr Dansie later made a claim of sex discrimination.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld the tribunal's decision that Dansie's claim of unlawful discrimination should be dismissed.  It was decided that the force’s dress code was itself gender neutral. Additionally, a female police officer would have been required to comply with any provisions of the dress code which affected women, in the same way that Mr Dansie was required to comply with the dress code as it affected him.

Many employers have dress codes, uniform policies or similar in place, and this decision should provide comfort to them that such codes may continue to include gender-specific provisions. However, remember- any provisions must be gender neutral.

Keep track of all the important employment legislation changes and dates by viewing our Legal Diary. Part 1. Part 2

  • 1st March 2010
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