On 19 July 2021, most COVID-19 related restrictions were lifted in England. However, the government cautioned against an immediate full return to the office, saying that it expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer, emphasizing employers’ obligations to ensure a safe place of work.
Indirect sex discrimination claims about working patterns and hours are sometimes based on the premise that women are less able than men to comply with an employer’s requirements because they are more likely to have childcare responsibilities.
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.
A belief that biological sex is immutable is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled. The case will now return to the employment tribunal to decide whether the claimant was discriminated against because of her belief when her consultancy contract was not renewed.
‘Fire-and-rehire’, the practice in which employers can dismiss employees and engage them on new/different terms (usually where consent is not obtained) has recently been in the spotlight, following reports suggesting that their use has increased during the pandemic.
The government has confirmed in its response to its 2019 consultation that it intends to establish a new single enforcement body for employment rights. The new body will enforce breaches in relation to national minimum wage, modern slavery (including modern slavery statements), employment agencies, statutory sick pay and holiday pay for vulnerable workers.