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James Brown

Knowledge Lawyer, London

The EU has reached a political agreement on long-mooted proposals for board gender quotas. If finalized, listed companies would need to ensure that either 40% of their non-executive directors or 33% of all directors are from the underrepresented gender by June 2026. Some jurisdictions may be exempt from implementing the new rules to some extent where existing national provisions already meet minimum requirements set out in the proposed directive.

Following on from part one of our two-part virtual mini-series “Back in the office: The evolving debate on vaccine mandates, and other Covid-safe measures”, in part two, Stephen Ratcliffe and Richard Cook dissect two particularly thorny issues that employers are currently dealing with in relation to the return to the office: reluctant returners and tensions surrounding vaccinations and the wearing of masks.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that the lack of protection from detriment for participating in industrial action under section 146 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) was a breach of Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly and the right of workers to form and join trade unions. The EAT held that it was possible to read such protection into section 146.

The government has published its response to its consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace, which closed in October 2019. When parliamentary time allows, the government will legislate to introduce a new duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and introduce explicit protections for harassment from third parties such as customers and clients.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled in two German cases that a ban on wearing any visible signs of political, philosophical or religious belief is not direct discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief provided it is applied in a general and undifferentiated way. Such a policy may be indirectly discriminatory unless it can be objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

The government has published updated guidance for employers that applies in England from Monday 19 July 2021, to coincide with the ending of almost all remaining mandatory COVID-19 related restrictions. The upshot of the guidance is that the government shifts responsibility to employers to determine when and how to initiate, or ramp up, a return to the office, including what ongoing safety measures might be required.