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Clients’ Stories

When crime touches employment

Criminal allegations often impact upon employment and we work closely with our criminal defence team to provide sensitive and pragmatic advice in difficult circumstances. We recently acted for a client who was not personally subject to a criminal investigation but a relative was and this was enough to place their employment at risk.

Our client had an exemplary and unblemished long service career history. When an adult family member was arrested pending a criminal investigation our client naturally provided some care and support during this challenging period.

It was the disclosure of this support that became the real issue in this case as teachers have extensive obligations to disclose any association with a person who would be disqualified from working as a teacher by virtue of being cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence. Under The Childcare (Disqualification) Regulations 2009 this can extend to living in the same household as the ‘disqualified’ person.

Sometimes it is difficult to return to work after being suspended when trust and confidence has broken down. A better outcome may be a negotiated exit. In some cases, clearing our client’s name is the most important thing and getting back to work.

We would always recommend obtaining legal assistance as soon as possible in order to benefit from early intervention and strategic advice which could mean the difference between keeping and losing your job.

Equal pay and sex discrimination

Pay disparity between the sexes is a hot topic with the introduction of gender pay gap reporting legislation requiring employers with 250 employees or more to publish data showing how large the pay gap is between their male and female employees by 4 April 2018.

We recently acted for two employees who were both exited from work after raising concerns over the level of pay and bonuses awarded to their male counterparts. This knee-jerk reaction by their employer turned out to be a risky decision as the employees were able to pursue claims for unfair dismissal, equal pay, sex discrimination and victimisation.

The first employee raised a grievance to put her concerns about pay in writing to her employer. However, instead of investigating her complaint the employer decided to dismiss her claiming that her department was going to be closed down. It was not a genuine redundancy situation and her employer failed to follow any procedure or consult with her making her dismissal unfair and discriminatory.

The second employee also queried why she had not received a bonus payment despite excellent performance. Soon after she was called into a meeting and told that the company needed to make a change and she was also dismissed. This reaction led our client to believe that she was targeted for dismissal because of her sex.

We issued both claims at the Employment Tribunal and succeeded in an application to obtain disclosure of the employer’s pay data at an early stage. The pay data confirmed our clients’ suspicions that female employees were paid significantly less than males in similar roles and received no bonus awards.

Equal pay legislation is intended to uphold the principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work. In reality comparing yourself to a colleague that you can say is employed on like work can prove difficult in the face of bare denials by employers but we have extensive experience and a proven track record of achieving good settlement outcomes when advising on these difficult claims.

Personal information and your entitlement to see what an organisation holds

Lady working at computer in officeOur client worked for her employer for over 10 years. Recently, male colleagues began to make regular sexist remarks to her. She decided to report their behaviour to her HR manager and subsequently followed the company’s grievance procedure.

After bringing the grievance, she was told that she could not do her job properly and as a result is now facing a disciplinary hearing.

Our client had genuine concerns that there have been emails between her colleagues which she has not been privy to, relating to her grievance as well as her imminent disciplinary hearing.

Subject Access Request (SAR) allows, under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, for an individual to view the information that an organisation holds about them. This is done by making what is known as a SAR and paying the appropriate fee (usually £10).

The organisation may have their own procedure for making the SAR, however the usual method is to write to the organisation with details of the information required. The person making the request should specify the time frame they require the information to cover as well as list all relevant people that the information may have been sent and/or received by. If an employer does not feel it is reasonable to respond to the request, they should explain why they believe this is the case. The request should be responded to within 40 days.

Our client’s employer responded to the SAR and within the documents is an email from our client’s manager to the HR team stating “She is difficult and has a bad attitude to work. She has brought a grievance complaining about discrimination which is something I don’t have the time for – she has to go. Preferably soon.” Our client now has evidence to support her claim for discrimination.

Time limits and employment law

Our client suffered a long campaign of bullying and harassment at work. She was regularly shouted at by her manager in an open plan area and was excluded from team activities. This treatment was making our client ill. She decided that she would make a complaint and checked her employer’s grievance procedure.

She wrote to the Human Resources department setting out her grievance and asking that her complaint was fully investigated. On the next day, she received a letter from HR inviting her to a disciplinary hearing because of alleged misconduct although the client did not know what this could be about. The client felt that she was being disciplined because she had brought a grievance.

Our client was dismissed at the disciplinary hearing after five years of loyal service. She was very upset and needed to undergo medical treatment for anxiety and depression.

Having still not received a response to her grievance, she chased her former employer as she felt that providing an explanation was the least they could do in the circumstances.

A few months later our client contacted us. Our first question to her was “when were you dismissed?” Her answer was “two and a half months ago”. She said that she had been waiting in the meantime for HR to reply to her grievance.

We explained to the client that it was a good thing that she had contacted us when she did as there are very tight timescales in employment cases. The first stage is to make a notification to ACAS within 3 months of dismissal. The client was already close to this time limit. Our client explained that she thought that she had to wait for the grievance to be dealt with first. Fortunately we were able to advise her that this was not the case and that the 3 month time limit overrides any grievance or appeal process.

Our client went on to bring a successful claim against her employer for unfair dismissal.

Our Employment Law Solicitors are backed by four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of London Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0800 437 0322 today.

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