Employment Law: Key Update – September 2014
There have been some interesting developments in the employment field recently. Bhavna Patel shares these together with her thoughts on them.
Use of Religious Orientated Swear Words
The Claimant in the case of M v P Care Homes Ltd & Others  made a claim for religious harassment. She alleged that her manager had regularly used foul language linked to religious references in front of her and her colleagues. Her manager conceded that she swore and it sometimes had a religious overtone. Some of her comments consisted of “oh my f*****g God” and Jesus f*****g Christ”.
The Claimant’s claim failed. The Employment Tribunal surmised that the remarks were not directed at the Claimant, and there was no intention to harass the Claimant personally, as the manager had used the same sort of language when the Claimant was not present. It also concluded it was not reasonable for the Claimant to perceive the language as creating an adverse environment for her, and it was not related to the Claimant’s religion. In any event, the commonly-used words, albeit blasphemous, were not in themselves abusive to any religion.
Despite such a finding the Tribunal did uphold the Claimant’s unfair dismissal claim due to procedural irregularities. This case not only highlights the importance of ensuring due process is applied when dismissing but also the extent in which an employer could be liable for religious harassment.
Injury to Feelings Guidance
Cadogan Hotel Partners Ltd v Ozog  is a useful reminder of how the Vento bands for injury to feelings should be applied. The Employment Appeal Tribunal’s recent ruling confirm as follows:
- The lower band (for less serious cases, such as where the act of discrimination is an isolated, or one off, occurrence) is between £660 and £6,600
- The middle band (for cases which are more serious but do not merit coming within the top band) is between £6,600 and £19,800
- The top band (for the most serious cases such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of harassment) is between £19,800 and £33,000
Guidance on New Father’s Rights
Expectant fathers or the partner of a pregnant woman from 1st October 2014 will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend to antenatal appointments with their partner. This new legislation has been driven by the Government’s aim of encouraging both parents to be involved at the earliest stage of pregnancy.
BIS have published a useful guide on the new legal right. It also sets out some guidance for employers. It’s definitely worth a read here: ‘Time off to accompany a pregnant woman to ante-natal appointments: employer guide’.
Shared Parental Leave
BIS has recently highlighted that some 285,000 couples will find out that they will be among the first parents who may be eligible to take advantage of shared parental leave rights. So that you are ahead of the game it’s worth noting that the new right also applies to qualifying adopters. Further, the new rules are due to apply from April 2015.
The shared parental leave rights are designed to give parents and adopters more flexibility in how to care for a child within the first year of birth. Parents in a nutshell will be able to share a pot of leave and can decide when and how they will take leave (this could be together and/or in turns). Since the rules are fairly complex, employers are advised to consider the impact of the change in good time.
Defence Reform Impact
From 1st October 2014 the Defence Reform Act 2014 will be amended. This will mean that there is no minimum qualification period required for an unfair dismissal claim provided the dismissal is or is in anyway connected with the employee’s membership of reserve force. The legislation is not, however, retrospective. It will apply where an employee’s effective date of termination falls on or after 1st October 2014.
There will also be some renaming on 1st October 2014. The Army Reserve will be known as the Regular Reserve and the Territorial Army will be called the Army Reserve. The Secretary of State will also at that point in time have power; (i) to call out reservists for certain non-war activities; and (ii) make additional payments to small or medium sized employers for those who are called out for service.
In case you’re wondering, the changes have come into play due to the Government’s desire to increase the army reservists to 30,000 by 2020.
Bhavna Patel is an employment law specialist. If you would like to speak to her about any aspect of this article or any employment related matter please feel free to call her on 01494 773377 or send her an email to [email protected]