Essential Employment Law Cases of the last 12 months | EEF

The areas of Employment Law you need to know

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New employment law cases and judgements are arriving all the time.  Through cases, appeals and rulings the law that governs employment in the UK and Europe is changing constantly.  Staying abreast of developments can be a challenge.  Our Employment Law experts have picked out some areas that you should pay attention to.

Shared Parental Leave and Flexible working

Shared Parental Leave and Flexible working have been the two largest areas to impact employment law in the last 12 months. 

Since June 2014 anyone who has been with their employer for more than 26 weeks has the right to request (but not necessarily be allowed) flexible working.  In their request, the employee needs to show the impact their request will have on the business and employers have 8 defined reasons to turn down the request.

Shared Parental Leave began fully in April 2015.  This new scheme allows fathers, mothers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off after their child is born. 

Shared Parental Leave can be a complex issue for employers so rather than go in to the policy detail, have a look at our detailed guide to Shared Parental Leave.

Redundancy over multiple sites and redundancy during maternity leave

If you have a business that operates over more than one site, a recent case brought after the closure of Woolworths was set to impact how you operate significantly. 

In the past, if you were to close an “establishment” with fewer than 20 employees, there was no legal requirement to consult before redundancy.  After a trade union led challenge to this requirement to consult and won their case. 

This meant that if you made more than 20 employees redundant across an organisation, regardless of the likely disparate reasons for the redundancies, employers would have had to consult on the roles.  Although the initial judgement found in favour of the trade unions, the ECJ overturned the ruling and left UK law as it stood.

Additionally, Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 came under scrutiny recently.  Sefton Council abolished 2 roles and created a new one as part of cost saving.  The holder of one of the abolished roles was on maternity leave when this happened.  Although the Council went through a selection process that included her for the new role, they offered the job to the man who had occupied the other abolished role.  She went to tribunal and successfully argued that Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 meant she should have been given the new role.

This is an important ruling for anyone who is facing redundancy decisions that include women on maternity leave.

Emergency time off

All employees are entitled to emergency time off, but they have to tell their employer what is going on and make reasonable attempts to keep them informed. 

A recent case saw this ruling tested.  An employee who had already received a final written warning for attendance problems took emergency time off to support his partner who was about to go in to labour.  He failed, however, to keep his employer informed, arguing that his mobile had run out of charge.  He was dismissed and went to tribunal. 

The tribunal found that his dismissal was fair.  Previous decisions on emergency time off have tended to be employee friendly.  With this case, the courts have arguably taken a new turn. 

Obesity and discrimination

Karsten Kaltoft was employed as a childminder by Danish local government until he was made redundant.  At the relevant time he had a BMI of 54.  He made numerous attempts to lose weight, and his employers provided him with financial support for this, but the attempts were unsuccessful.  There was a decrease in the number of children to be looked after and a childminder needed to be made redundant.  Mr Kaltoft was selected for redundancy.  He believed that this was because of his obesity. 

Mr Kaltoft argued that obesity is an illness and should be regarded as a disability.  The Court disagreed.  They ruled that obesity is not a disability by itself – so an employee cannot claim protection against discrimination on the grounds of simply being obese.  However, an obese person could become disabled if their weight reaches a degree where it hinders a worker from full and effective participation in professional life. 

This decision has been echoed by the UK Courts, who also found that obesity is not an impairment of itself but the effects of disability may result in an employee being disabled.

Operating within the law

All of the judgements highlighted here were made in the last 12 months and they do have implications for UK employers, no matter what size or scale you operate at.  Knowing how these cases effect you and your business can mean the difference between smooth management and expensive employment tribunals.  EEF Training offer a range of Employment Law Training Courses that can help you stay on top of your legal obligations and stay out of trouble


L&D Consultant – HR & Legal Specialist

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