Newsletter – September 2008

Teacher with 34 Years’ Experience wins Age Discrimination Claim

A local authority – Milton Keynes Borough Council – which advertised for teachers in “the first five years of their career” has just lost an age discrimination claim. A 61 year old teacher, a Mrs Rainbow with 34 years’ classroom experience was not short listed for the vacancy. Her claim was successful on the grounds of indirect age discrimination. The tribunal found that people of Mrs Rainbow’s age were likely to have had more experience and would therefore be put at a disadvantage when compared to other applicants. If cost was to be used as a justification the evidence had to be such that the local authority was compelled to take the discriminatory decision. The Council had failed to prove that their decision to appoint a cheaper and less experienced employee was objectively justified on grounds of cost.

Faith Schools Face Campaign Against Their Right to Discriminate on Grounds of Religion

As schools go back after the summer holiday, a campaign has been launched by academics and scientists to stop state-funded faith schools from discriminating against pupils and teachers on the grounds of religion. Under new laws, faith schools are now allowed to include faith as a selection criterion for teaching and non-teaching jobs, reserving more places for people from the same religious community. A group called "Accord" made up of Hindu, Christian, Jewish and Humanist organisations say that this will put restrictions on the employment rights of staff and that discrimination of this sort is illegal in other types of state schools. At their conference earlier this year, the National Union of Teachers put forward an alternative policy proposing that all schools should become practicing multi-faith establishments. Head teachers would bring in imams, rabbis and priests to instruct religious pupils as part of the curriculum in an attempt to satisfy parental demands for religion in schools.

Migrant Worker Licences – Employers Have Only 3 Weeks Left to Apply

The deadline for applying for a sponsorship licence to employ migrant workers is fast approaching – October 1st.

The new licenses replace work permits and will be required for all migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area. The new system is the biggest change to the way migrant workers are employed since the work permit system was introduced 40 years ago. There are five tiers of workers under the new arrangements. The October deadline is for tier two and is for skilled workers. Employers used to be able to obtain work permits for three of four years at a time. There is now a requirement to register to employ migrant workers. And having done so, to stay constantly active in making sure that workers are entitled to continue working. Annual monitoring is required. The term “skilled workers” will include those from a particular specialism where there may not be an available European Union worker who could do the job. It will therefore be especially important in jobs connected to research and development. We have a free outline briefing available on the specific rules governing employer’s monitoring duties. Get in touch if you would like a copy.

Legal Right to Train – More Details Emerge

Employees who have worked for 26 weeks or more will have the right to request time to train under new laws being piloted by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. The right will apply to 22 million workers in England. The Government say it will help some 300,000 of them to receive skills training every year. Employers will be expected to treat training requests the same as considering requests for flexible working. The Government plan to spend over £3 billion on skills training this year and increase the figure to nearly £4 billion by 2010. Further details are available from the Department of Skills on 0207 215 5555. Their consultation paper “Time to Train” is available at http://tinyurl.com/5qe62n.

October will see Changes in the National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage will increase from October 2008 to:-

  • £5.73p – Adults over 22
  • £4.77p – 18-21 year olds
  • £3.53 – 16-17 year olds

Scotland Yard – The Latest News

In August we reported on Tarique Ghaffur’s multi-discrimination claims against Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. On 9th September it was announced that Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur had been “temporarily relieved” of his command and placed on authorised leave. Sir Ian stressed that his decision did not arise from the filing of the tribunal papers but “rather from the way Mr Ghaffur had chosen to conduct himself” since lodging the claim. Sir Ian specifically mentioned a media campaign and comments in a press conference attended by Mr Ghaffur.

£250,000 - Maternity and Sex Discrimination Claim

A female sales manager who took maternity leave twice in a period of 14 months is expected to win compensation of up to £250,000 after what an employment judge described as “disrespectful, dismissive and demeaning treatment” from her employers, Anglian Home Improvements. The judge in deciding in her favour also said that the company’s evidence had been “incomplete, unconvincing and inconsistent.”

Mrs Alison Prowse-Piper, the claimant, reported that she was described in open meetings as “boring” by the Marketing Director and that her mobile telephone was a “useless brick”. Several other instances of detrimental conduct were reported to the tribunal including the fact that her salary was reduced from £72,500 to £30,000 a year. A tribunal in November will determine the exact amount of compensation to be awarded.

Dyslexic Student Launches Legal Fight to Scrap Multiple Choice Exam Questions

A case that could have major implications for education providers has just been lodged by a young medical student. She is taking the General Medical Council to a tribunal under the Disability Discrimination Act. The student, Naomi Gadian, says that the multiple choice questions in exam papers caused her to fail the papers with the result that she has had to re-sit the first year. Medical experts say that dyslexic students have difficulty with short-term memory and struggle with multiple choices because they forget the first options by the time they have read the final one. The General Medical Council say they have no power to make medical schools make adjustments for people with disabilities. The Council have, however, issued new guidance for medical schools offering practical advice to improve the accessibility of medical education for students with disabilities.

Harriet Harman sets up National Equality Panel

The Secretary of State for Equalities has set up a new National Equality Panel. It will be chaired by Professor John Hills and will provide the Government with an in depth analysis of inequality in Britain by the end of next year. The panel will gather data from the last decade and commission new research as appropriate. Specifically, the team is going to examine how people’s life chances are affected by gender, race, disability and other important aspects of inequality. Information will be published soon about how you can give evidence. Get in touch for more details and we will keep you informed.

New Action on Volunteers’ Health and Safety in Scotland

The Scottish Health and Safety Executive have launched a big campaign to prompt employers to do more about the welfare of volunteers and those on unpaid work placements. The campaign launched jointly with the trade unions has produced a package of free services including training, advice on healthy living and an advice line 0800 019 2211