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A ruling has been made in the Court of Justice of the European Union in the matter of King v. The Sash Windows Workshop Limited.

A tribunal held that Mr King was a ‘worker’ and therefore was entitled to paid annual leave, even though he believed that he was self-employed. The CJEU said that because Sash Windows had not paid for annual leave, Mr King could carry over his entitlement to paid annual leave and it would not be lost at the end of each year.

Claims for unpaid annual leave could potentially reach back to 1996 (when the original Working Time Directive came into force). Therefore, employers could potentially face bills for 20 years of holiday pay. Please note that this ruling only applies to the 4 weeks’ EU holiday entitlement and not the 5.6 weeks of holiday under UK law. However, this could still amount to substantial sums.

This ruling is particularly important when considering the number of matters that will be heard in the Supreme Court next year about the classification of those who work for employers such as Uber and Pimlico Plumbers. If it is decided that they are to be classified as 'workers', they would potentially be able to backdate their holiday pay claims to 1996. The ruling made it clear that ignorance on status is no defence for an employer.

Caspar Glyn QC has stated that "it may be a tide that overwhelms some employers". 
The headlines from today’s budget relate to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) relief which has been announced in relation to first-time buyers. However, there were a number of changes affecting the legal world contained in the government’s plans for taxation and spending in the coming months.

In employment law, the Chancellor confirmed that the national living wage, payable to workers over 25, will rise from £7.50 per hour to £7.83. The tax-free personal allowance for income tax will rise from £11,500 to £11,850 and the higher rate income tax threshold will increase from £45,001 to £46,350. These changes will take effect in April 2018.
 
In conveyancing, SDLT will no longer be payable by first-time buyers, provided the property they are buying is worth up to £300,000. This will mean a saving of up to £5,000 tax. In London and other areas where property prices are higher, the first £300,000 will not attract stamp duty if the property is worth up to £500,000. There was good news for developers, in measures to boost house building, with a target of building 300,000 new homes a year by 2025.
 
Generally, the government has committed to reduce the Ministry of Justice’s budget by £600m by 2019/20. The Law Society have reiterated their concerns in this regard due to the limitations it will likely mean to access to justice.
 
Last but not least, an additional £3bn ‘Brexit fund’ is being set aside as preparations continue for the UK leaving the European Union. 

ACAS has updated its guidance on pregnancy and maternity related matters at work. The aim of the guidance is to ensure that the workplace is an inclusive environment for employees and workers; ensuring that they do not feel disadvantaged or undervalued once they fall pregnant or go on maternity leave and also to help employers to avoid unlawful discrimination. Topics include:

  • What behaviour and actions are unacceptable such as derogatory comments about an employee’s pregnancy or maternity;
  • Pregnancy and maternity awareness training for staff;
  • Health and safety for employees who are pregnant or new mothers; and
  • Avoiding stereotypes.

The guidance was prompted by approximately 14,000 calls which ACAS received on the topic last year.

Our team of experienced employment law solicitors are able to assist with all matters relating to pregnancy and maternity discrimination. If you would like further information or would like to discuss your matter with a member of our team; please do not hesitate to contact us on 01494 451355.

Lee Silk was successful in resisting an application to set aside default Judgment. The claim was for the sum of £41,043.94. The Defendant’s application was dismissed and our client was awarded costs in the sum of £1,700. Our client was successful in recovering the Judgment debt and also the costs of the application. The Defendant had given a cross company guarantee and was liable for the principal debtor’s breach of contract. 
The government has announced their plan for the fee refund scheme, further to the decision of the Supreme Court in July this year that the fee scheme was unlawful.

The fees will be repaid with interest of 0.5%. The government has stated that they will be contacting applicants regarding the refund.

The estimated cost of the tribunal fees refund, including interest, is £33 million.

Lee Silk recently settled a claim acting for a claimant cohabitee under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The limitation date was extended by way of a Standstill Agreement so that the parties could attend mediation. Further details cannot be provided due to confidentiality reasons.

Our litigation team recently acted for a client in a claim against his former school. The claim related to a false and damning reference given to a prospective employer which resulted in a job offer being withdrawn and our client suffering loss. The claim settled prior to the issue of proceedings with the school accepting a Part 36 Offer.  

Our family law team was recently successful in obtaining a £4,000 costs order against CAFCASS based on failings in the standards of reporting which led to a delay of proceedings. We are unaware of another case in England and Wales when a costs order has been obtained against CAFCASS.

This week we welcomed Neil Darby to our litigation team. Neil is a solicitor with over 20 years' experience in litigation and will be based at our High Wycombe office in Buckinghamshire.

On 5 September 2017, Presidential Guidance was issued by the Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales, and Scotland increasing the levels of compensation which can be awarded to a Claimant for injury to feelings.

Injury to feelings

An award for injury to feelings can be made by the Employment Tribunal in certain claims, such as discrimination or detriment for having blown the whistle.

The award is intended to compensate the Claimant for non-financial loss, such as hurt, distress and anxiety. The award is separate to an award for financial loss, such as loss of earnings.

The Tribunal has discretion as to the amount of the award. It will consider various factors such as any medical condition the Claimant has or is suffering, the seriousness of what happened, the extent to which the employer sought to make amends, the period of discrimination or detrimental treatment and the actual effect on the Claimant.

A Court of Appeal case called Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police (2002) distinguished three bands of compensation for injury to feelings. These are normally referred to as the “Vento bands”

1. The lower band: “appropriate for less serious cases, such as where the act of discrimination is an isolated or one-off occurrence.
2. The middle band: “serious cases, which do not merit an award in the highest band.
3. The top band: “the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment on the ground of sex or race.” Only in “the most exceptional case” should an award for injury to feelings exceed the top of this band.

Increase

As a result of a recent consultation on the Vento bands, they have been increased. The new bands are:

A lower band of £800 to £8,400 (previously £600-£6,600);
A middle band of £8,400 to £25,200 (previously £6,600- £19,800); and
An upper band of £25,200 to £42,000, with the most exceptional cases capable of exceeding £42,000 (previously £19,800 to £33,000).

The new bands apply to cases submitted to the Tribunal on or after 11 September 2017.
 
The Presidents say they will review and, if necessary, amend the Presidential Guidance in March 2018 and annually thereafter. 
 
What does this mean for employers? 

The new bands represent an increase in potential liability for employers facing discrimination or whistleblowing detriment claims; it may become more expensive if an employer loses such a claim.However, employers should note that the majority of awards have historically fallen in the lower or middle bands, with only a few in the top band.  
 
We await hearing about the first Tribunal decisions and subsequent statistics applying the increased figures.

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