New revised EOC Code of Practice on Equal Pay
The Equal Opportunities Commission's new revised Code of
Practice on Equal Pay has received parliamentary approval
and will come into force on 1 December 2003. The Code has
been revised to take account of new legislation and recent
case law, and is intended to provide practical guidance
on achieving equal pay without sex discrimination. Although
it is aimed primarily at employers, the EOC hopes that employees
and their representatives or advisers may also find it useful.
The Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings under
the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 or the Equal Pay Act 1970.
This means that, while the Code is not binding, an employment
tribunal may take into account an employer's failure to
act on its provisions. New material contained in the revised
Code includes information on equal pay for pregnant women
and women on maternity leave, grievance procedures, the
equal pay questionnaire and equal pay reviews.
EOC backs mums on breast-feeding babies in the workplace
The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) claims that women
still have the right to breast-feed at work, despite a recent
tribunal ruling that employers do not have to provide facilities.
Last year, an employment tribunal ruled that a female employee
had been discriminated against after her employers said
she should take unpaid leave if she wished to breast-feed
after her maternity leave period had ended. However a recent
EAT overturned this ruling stating that no right to breast-feed
at work exists in law. In effect this ruling means that
it will no longer be considered sexual discrimination for
an employer to fail to provide breast-feeding facilities.
The EOC however has said that under Health and Safety legislation,
employers still have to provide pregnant and breast-feeding
women with a place to rest.
UNISON is supporting a Private Members Bill promoted by
Elaine Smith MSP on this issue.
Asthmatic worker exposed to smoke awarded compensation
An EAT recently ruled that an asthmatic employee was discriminated
against under the Disability Discrimination Act after her
former employers failed to enforce a non-smoking policy
in the workplace. The employee had complained about the
smoky atmosphere at her place of work and was subsequently
moved to a non-smoking area, however her employers still
failed to enforce the no smoking policy at her new area
of work. Although only employed for 45 days the employee
was able to sue for unfair dismissal, after being sacked
for taking 16 days off her work, because she was asthmatic
and registered disabled. The EAT awarded the former employee
£17,000 in damages.
Banning of hand held mobiles
The Government is to make the use by drivers of hand-held
mobile phones and similar communication devices unlawful
with effect from 1 December 2003. Under a new provision
inserted into the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations
1986, it will be a criminal offence for anyone to drive
a motor vehicle while using a hand-held telephone or a similar
device (other than a two-way radio). The new provisions
will also affect employers, although the Department of Transport
considers that employers would not be liable simply because
they have supplied a telephone or phone an employee who
is driving, they are likely to be liable if they require
their employees to use a hand-held phone while driving.
They may also be liable, in the Department's view, if they
fail to forbid employees to use such phones while driving
on company business.
Health & Safety
UK – a dangerous place to work!
Latest official statistics show that British workplaces
still remain dangerous environments in which to work. New
figures from the Health and Safety Commission (HSC) show
that 226 people were killed in work-related accidents in
the UK between March 2002 and March 2003, 25 fewer than
2001/02. Figures also showed that in the same period there
were 28,426 major injuries in British workplaces, 415 more
than 2001/02. There were 126,004 injuries causing 3 days
or more absence from work, (3,651 less than in 2001/02).
The figures also revealed that in 2002/03 the HSE issued
13,263 enforcement notices, an increase of 20 per cent on
the figure for 2001/02. Safety fines, however, fell significantly,
as did the number of court actions taken by HSE, down 15
% on 2001/02. In terms of Scottish figures the rate of fatal
injury to employees actually increased by 14% between March
2002 and March 2003. This is in stark comparison to the
overall UK figure, which showed an overall 11% decrease
in fatal injuries to employees.
Workers continue to be cheated out of the minimum wage
Over four and a half years after the minimum wage was introduced,
the TUC has calculated that thousands of workers continue
to be cheated out of the minimum wage by dishonest employers.
Although around £13 million has been recovered from lawbreaking
bosses since the minimum wage was introduced on 1 April
1999, the TUC estimates that around 170,000 workers are
still taking less money home than the law says they should
be. To try to help track down those employers who are deliberately
avoiding paying their staff £4.50 an hour (or £3.80 an hour
if they're aged 18-21), the TUC and the Low Pay Network
have recently published a new edition of their enforcement
guide to the minimum wage. Enforcing the National Minimum
Wage sets out in plain terms how unions and advice workers
can make sure all workers are earning at the very least
the minimum wage and points out that often all that is needed
to make an employer start paying the minimum wage is for
a union or an adviser to bring non-payment to their attention.
More unwilling employers will need the involvement of the
Inland Revenue before they start paying their workers the
EQUALITY AT WORK
No need to justify 'length of service' as basis for pay
In an important case on equal pay, the EAT has decided
that an employer does not have to justify pay differentials
between full-time employees based on length of service even
if the pay structure indirectly discriminates against women.
The pay differentials that were the subject of the claim
came about from a previous pay system, in which the male
comparators had moved further up the pay band because of
their longer service. The EAT's decision concerned a female
HSE Principal Inspector who claimed equal pay with four
male comparators who earned between £4,000 and £9,000 gross
per annum more than her. It was accepted before the employment
tribunal that the applicant and her comparators were employed
on 'like work'; that the pay differential was solely attributable
to the application of a length of service criterion for
determining pay acceleration; and that using that criterion
had a disproportionate adverse impact on women. The issue
in dispute was therefore whether the HSE had objectively
to justify the use of length of service in these circumstances.
The tribunal took the view that the HSE had failed to provide
specific justification for the differentials based on length
of service. However, the EAT has now overturned that decision,
ruling that the employer was entitled to reward seniority
without needing to show its actual importance for the performance
of the specific duties entrusted to the employee.
A leading UK recruitment agency has recently released
the results of its study on how not to alienate work colleagues.
Top 5 pet hates are:
Being emailed by people sitting nearby
People who listen to voicemails on speakerphone
Colleagues who swear at their computer
Colleagues choice of music/radio station
Colleagues who do not share tea-making