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November 2012 Updates

The good life? Living wage week begins on a high

The London living wage is being increased from £8.30 to £8.55 per hour.

The wage is not binding on any firm, but is currently backed by around 200 employers. The scheme has benefited over 11,500 workers since its introduction in 2005. The scheme is supported by a range of accredited employers; PwC, Linklaters, Amnesty UK and even LSE Students' Union!

This comes as Ed Milliband, in a speech to start Living Wage Week, unveiled plans to enforce a living wage across the UK should the Labour party win the next election. As it currently stands, the UK living wage is £7.45, and, as mentioned above, £8.55 for London. This would give millions of people's wages a much needed boost.

This is set to be an integral part of Milliband's "One Nation" vision for Britain, as he declares almost 5 million people in Britain aren't currently earning the living wage. He has suggested naming and shaming offending companies.

Visit www.livingwage.org.uk for information on how to join the living wage scheme, or to find out whether your employer is currently a member.

Office politics

In the recent case of Redfearn v United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK is not conforming with the European Convention of Human Rights because it doesn't provide specific protection to employees who are dismissed due to their political beliefs.

The individual in this case was dismissed after being elected as a local councillor for the BNP. He worked as a driver for Serco Limited, transporting children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Many of his passengers were Asian.

The law in the UK must now be changed to either allow for a free-standing claim for discrimination on grounds of political affiliation, or to create an exception to the qualifying period for unfair dismissal.

This is something employers will need to comply with and it may, therefore, be beneficial to update your policies and procedures now. Contact us for more information.

A delicate balance

On 14 November 2012 the European Commission published a proposal aiming to improve the gender balance amongst non-executive directors of companies listed on the stock exchanges. The proposed directive will apply to all listed companies, with the exception of small and medium sized enterprises.

It is proposed that:

  • At least 40% of non-executive director positions are filled by the under-represented gender group by January 2020.
  • When making appointments for non-executive directors, employers must apply a clear, unambiguous and gender neutral criteria. If candidates are equally matched, preference will be given to the candidate of the under represented gender.
  • Non-compliance with the 40% objective may be justifiable if less than 10% of the workforce comprise of the under represented gender group, or, if the under represented gender holds at least one third of director positions.
  • Companies will have to publish annual information on the gender comparison of their board. They will also have to undertake individual commitments in terms of balanced representation.

The Commission's proposal will now pass to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union for consideration. If the proposals go ahead, the UK would be required to establish sanctions for companies who were to flout the directive. They would be expected to do this between 2018 and 2020. This is yet another interesting development in the very topical field of gender equality.

A not so strict duty to consult?

The EAT upheld the Tribunal's decision In Ashby v JJB Sports Plc that the dismissal of a senior HR Manager due to a redundancy situation was fair, despite there being no consultation.

The case falls into a category of cases, typically defined by Polkey v AE Dayton Services Ltd, where a consultation for redundancy would have been futile.

There was an alternative vacancy the HR Manager could have taken had the business been more prosperous at the time. However, it was decided that it was entirely reasonable, given all the circumstances, for the employer not to offer him this opportunity due to its financial pressures to make effective changes to management.

In light of the economic difficulties many employers are currently facing, the Tribunal appears to be gradually taking a more commercially realistic view of the redundancy process.

Domestic violence: helping employees fight back

Law firms such as Wragge & Co and Millbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy are playing a huge part in supporting victims of domestic violence as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

The firms recognise that as well as backing external organisations, there is also a key part to be played in their own offices.

According the Law Society Gazette, 53% of victims of domestic violence arrive late for work at least three days a month, 56% of abused women arrive late for work at least five times per month and 75% of victims are, in one way or another, targeted during work hours.

The firms have provided their HR teams and managers with training on dealing with domestic violence in the workplace. They offer support to employees who may feel vulnerable upon leaving the workplace and journeying home. They have put posters up around their offices, and set up domestic violence pages on their intranets. Wragge & Co's domestic violence page has, on average, between 20 and 25 new visitors each month.

One in four women and one in six men will experience domestic violence in their adult lives. It could happen to any employee, from a senior partner to a member of the post room. Comparing those statistics to the size of an average workforce speaks volumes.

For more information on how to involve your workplace in a similar initiative visit www.caadv.org.uk.

Email: info@stewartlaw.co.uk


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