Frontline: UK Employment Law Update February 2017

By Ian Hunter, Pattie Walsh, Elizabeth Lang, James Froud


Welcome to the February edition of Frontline. This month, in the wake of a parliamentary inquiry prompted by Nicola Thorp (see below) Furat Ashraf, Associate, considers the Equality Act 2010 and the dress code dilemmas that need to be ironed out.

In our Case Summary we review decisions from both the Court of Appeal and Employment Appeals Tribunal relating to a gross-misconduct dismissal resulting from an employee's act of gross negligence; the circumstances which may entitle an employee to compensation for an invention created in the course of normal duties; the strict onus on employers to carefully consider reasonable adjustments; and, the on-going worker/contractor debate facing those operating in the 'gig-economy'.

Our Legal Updates include the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2017, the Trade Union Act 2016 and an update on the Employment Tribunal's online database.

We also bring you our latest press articles and details of our upcoming events.

What Not To Wear – Health & Safety, Discrimination & Dress Code Dramas

Donald Trump sparked outrage in the US recently with reports that he directed female staff members in the White House to "dress like women" at work. On this side of the Atlantic, workplace dress codes for women hit the headlines early last year when Nicola Thorp, a receptionist at an accounting firm, was sent home from work because she was not wearing heels between two and four inches as dictated by her employer's policy.

Read more >

Case Updates

Employee negligence may justify gross misconduct dismissal

Adesokan v Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 22

The Court of Appeal has held that an employee's act of gross negligence, through dereliction of duty, can justify an employer's decision to dismiss them for gross misconduct.

Read more >

Employee may be entitled to compensation for invention

Shanks v Unilever Plc & Ors [2017] EWCA Civ 2

The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision that a subsidiary of Unilever did not owe compensation to its employee for his invention, because the patent had not been of outstanding benefit to the business.

Read more >

Disabled employee entitled to reduction in workload

The Home Office (UK Visas & Immigration) v Kuranchie UKEAT/0202/16/BA

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) rejected an employer's appeal that it took sufficient steps to make reasonable adjustments by allowing a disabled employee to work compressed hours, but failing to decrease her volume of work. The EAT agreed that the Claimant remained at a substantial disadvantage after her hours had been altered.

Read more >

Spotlight on gig economy as plumber found to be worker

Pimlico Plumbers & Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith [2017] EWCA Civ 51

After the recent Uber drivers case, the gig economy remains in the headlines after the Court of Appeal upheld the EAT decision that a plumber was a "worker" for Pimlico Plumbers, and not a self-employed contractor.

Read more >

Legal Updates

National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2017

The draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2017 were published on 1 February 2017 and the following hourly rates of national minimum wage will apply from 1 April 2017:

  • National living wage (workers aged 25 and over): £7.50
  • Standard adult (workers aged between 21 and 24): £7.05
  • Development (workers aged between 18 and 20): £5.60
  • Young workers (workers aged under 18 but above the compulsory school age who are not apprentices): £4.05
  • Apprentices: £3.50

Trade Union Act 2016

The Trade Union Act 2016, expected to come into force 1 March 2017, introduces significant reforms to the organising of industrial action. One of the most notable changes is that a ballot for industrial action will be prohibited unless 50% of eligible voters participate. In addition to this, ballots will require 40% of eligible voters to support the action in "important public services", the definition of which is contained in draft Regulations published by the Government.

The current minimum of 7 days' notice of industrial action will be raised to 14 days, unless the employer agrees otherwise. The Act also sets out new picketing rules, and a more stringent requirement to provide details of the ballot outcome.

Online database of Employment Tribunal decisions now available

A searchable online database of Tribunal decisions dating back to 2015 has been made available, after HMCTS's original proposal in 2016. It currently contains 150 decisions, and can be accessed here.

In the Press

Artificial Intelligence

Several members of the team have been featured in the media recently discussing the employment issues caused by the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI).

James Froud, partner, spoke to The Times on how much of a game-changer AI could be in the workplace. Read the full article here.

Penny Hunt, legal director, and Kate Hurn, associate, spoke to Employee Benefits on the some of the changes we may see in response to automation. Read their article here.


European & Asia-Pacific Employment & Labour Law Workshop - 7 March 2017, San Francisco, CA.

We'd love you to join us and members of our International HR Services team for a workshop exploring the curious worlds of European and Asia-Pacific employment and labour law, in the context of acquisitions. Click here to find out more and RSVP.

First for Disputes Conference - 9 March 2017, London.

Interested in finding out more about employment disputes? James Froud, partner, will be delivering an employment focused workshop as part of our First for Disputes Conference on 9 March 2017 at our London office. To find out more and RSVP click here.