Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sex discrimination, Rangers

Rangers FC chief executive Charles Green caused quite a stir when he revealed he was willing to use sex discrimination legislation to sue UEFA if they attempt to block his club from moving to the

English leagues.

If it was a statement designed to engineer publicity, it worked. The media dropped everything and pounced on Mr Green’s statement.

Handshake

Back in the real world, however, sex discrimination in the workplace is a very real issue. There were 10,800 sex discrimination complaints accepted by employment tribunals in 2011/12, of which 166 resulted in financial awards.

The average pay out in sex discrimination cases cost employers £9,940, with the highest reaching £89,700. It may not be football clubs and their multi-million pound arguments, but on a social level, the significance of these cases, none of which were brought by Rangers FC against UEFA, is enormous.

Sex discrimination has been legislated against since 1975, but it may surprise you to learn that sexual harassment in the workplace was not specifically outlawed until 2005, when an amendment to the Sexual Discrimination Act granted workers protection against unwanted sexual conduct, whether verbal or physical.

If you feel you are suffering as a result of sexual harassment in the workplace, and if attempts to deal with it internally have failed, contacting a specialist sexual harassment lawyer should be near the top of your to-do list.

Whether you are experiencing:

  • Unwanted physical contact
  • Unwanted comments
  • The receipt of inappropriate emails
  • The display of unacceptable material (like calendars or posters)
  • Or many more…

We can advise you how best to act.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Future uncertain for HMV staff

The future is uncertain for HMV staff.  Get employment law advice from Ashby Cohen.HMV is not the first High Street giant to fall victim to the recession – and it won’t be the last.

The knowledge that their employer’s misfortunes are entirely in keeping with a nationwide climate of low consumer spending, however, is unlikely to provide much comfort for affected workers.

The music and entertainment retailer’s descent into administration last week has left around 4500 staff from 250 stores facing possible unemployment.

With the economy in such a state, that is no joke.

And for the staff themselves, trying to get their heads around a complicated employee rights situation is doubtless an extra headache they don’t need.

Contacting expert employment lawyers is, of course, the best way to make sure your rights are upheld. After all, when a company enters administration – which is intended to give the company a breathing space so that it can explore the chances of surviving – normal practices are suspended:

  • Employees are unable to make legal claims against their employer
  • The administrator has 14 days to decide whether to cut costs by dismissing employees
  • If you are dismissed, you become an “ordinary creditor”, giving you a limited chance of recovering monies owing to you in relation to your employment
  • If you are retained by the administrator your salary and pension contributions (but not benefits in kind) after you have been kept on, are given priority for payment.

From there, it’s up in the air.

If the company cannot be saved and it turns out liquidation is the outcome, the Insolvency Act 1986 provides that employees are “preferential creditors” – meaning that they have a better chance of getting paid – for any outstanding salary for the four-month period immediately preceding the insolvency (up to a total cap of £800). They are also entitled to be treated as a preferred creditor for accrued holiday pay, but not for notice pay or statutory redundancy pay.

If there is simply not enough cash left in the business to pay you what you are due, you’d be forgiven for thinking all is lost.

That is not the case.

Employees in this position can make an application to the National Insurance Fund. for up to 8 weeks arrears of pay, their statutory redundancy pay and their statutory notice period.  However there are caps on what can be received from the National Insurance Fund and the process can be complex and time consuming.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly – or that you are due payments – contact us today. We can assess your situation and help you decide what to do next.

Discrimination in the workplace – seeking the best advice

Last year, discrimination in the workplace resulted in over 28,000 complaints being put before employment tribunals – but only 1.2% of these claims resulted in a financial reward.  However, with less than half of claimants represented by a lawyer, it’s no surprise success rates tend to suffer.

With cases ranging from racial prejudice and religious bigotry through to intolerance of sexual orientation and ageism, discrimination has the potential to affect everyone.

Read, like and share our Infographic (below) – and hopefully it can help inspire sufferers to seek professional employment law advice if subjected to prejudice in the workplace.

Ashby Cohen guide to discrimination in the workplace employment tribunal pay outs

Performance Improvement Plans

Successful Employees Showing Thumbs Up.The theory of a Performance Improvement Plan or “PIP” is that it is a mechanism whereby an employee who is under-performing in his job can, in conjunction with a supportive management, turn around the situation through his own efforts and remain in employment.  The practice is different.  More often than not, A PIP forms part of a strategy to terminate an employee’s employment and is put forward by the employer so as to seek to minimise his potential exposure to claims as a result of that termination.  Because its purpose is to protect the employer from potential claims against it in the employment tribunal, the chances of an employee successfully completing a PIP are slim.

When an employee agrees to be put on a PIP it is tantamount to his admitting that he is under performing.  Thus the employee’s reaction should be (a) not to sign any documentation which could be construed as acknowledging that his performance needs improvement (b) to ask the employer to spell out in what way his performance is sub-standard with specific examples and what bench marks the employee has to achieve and the time scale in which he has to achieve them, so as to “redeem” himself and (c) to query who identified the poor performance – was it the employee’s line manager or someone higher up the management chain or a work colleague.  If the employee has been employed for a number of years and has a good work history, he should consider raising a grievance about his suddenly being put on a PIP.

The other reaction should be for the employee to start looking for a new job because when an employer raises the possibility of a PIP, then in most cases the reality is that the employer is saying that it doesn’t want the employee any more.  The reaction of most employees would be that they would want to leave rather than suffer the humiliation of staying and taking part in the plan and the suggestion of a PIP is often made by the employer with this in mind.  It can be viewed as a form of bullying.  However, the employee should remember that it is probably as embarrassing for the company’s management to have to carry out the plan, as it is for the employee to have to undergo it.

Good management should monitor performance via ongoing informal discussions as well as more formal quarterly / annual appraisals so that there is no need to raise the spectre of a PIP.  If an employee has been effectively managed he will be aware of his failings and realise that he might not be best suited to the role in which he finds himself and will have already been looking to move on.  It is the employee who has never been criticised for his performance and who has had a series of appraisals where nothing has been mentioned but who is suddenly faced with being put on a PIP who should query the position with a view to trying to agree his departure under the terms of a fair and reasonable financial settlement.