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Employment Legislation Update September 2017

Recent developments have highlighted how important it is for employers to keep up to date with developments in employment law.

The first is a case involving monitoring of an employee’s emails at work.  This was a Romanian case in which an employee had used work computers for personal purposes, even though he was aware this was forbidden.  The employee had not been informed that the employer was monitoring his communications. 

The original decision of the European Court of Human Rights was that the employer had acted lawfully when monitoring the employee’s email account but this decision has recently been reversed.  Workers have a right to respect for privacy in the workplace and if an employer is going to monitor their communications, the employer should (exceptional reasons aside) tell the worker.

With regard to discrimination claims, the ‘Vento’ bands which are used to compensate for injury to feelings have recently been uplifted.  A tribunal needs to assess whether the claimant’s feelings were injured and give a financial value to that injury using the Vento guidelines which came from a case of the same name. Medical input is not required.

There are three bands.  The lower band is for less serious cases or one off or isolated incidents.  The second band is for more serious cases and the highest band is for very serious cases such as a prolonged campaign of harassment over a lengthy period.

Another recent case involves suspension from work which is often used by employers pending an investigation into gross misconduct or some other potentially serious disciplinary matter.  The case questioned whether suspension from work was a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence after a teacher was suspended because of the force she used with two children.  She was not asked to respond to the allegations and no consideration was given to any alternative to suspension and she resigned the same day. 

Whilst suspension from work is often referred to as a neutral act, the courts ruled that it was not in the context of a qualified professional in a vocation, such as a teacher.  The courts said that employers should avoid a knee-jerk reaction and suspension from work must not be the default position.

If you would like further information or support for your business please contact Sheila Watson on 01429 857082, sheila.watson@hartlepool.gov.uk 

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