Archive for January, 2012

A Polish female doctor who was subjected to discrimination on grounds of her sex and race has been awarded just under £4.5 million in compensation.

The tribunal hearing the claim found that she had been subjected to a concerted plan of action designed to end her employment while she was on maternity leave. It heard evidence of unjustified complaints about her, repeated references to her Polish origin, questions about her competency because she trained in Poland, ‘a lengthy and wholly unauthorised period of suspension’, and a ‘bogus’ disciplinary procedure which resulted in her being dismissed ‘for no good or justifiable reason’. The tribunal said that it had been ‘positively outraged’ at the way in which the employer behaved.

Medical evidence showed that she had suffered ‘chronic and disabling’ post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, which had led to an ‘enduring personality change’ The tribunal took the view that as a consequence she will never return to work as a doctor and, therefore, took the exceptional approach of awarding compensation for loss of earnings right up until retirement.

The figure awarded is thought to be the largest award in a UK discrimination case, where awards are unlimited. The Trust and three senior staff members were held jointly and severally liable to pay the compensation.

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Live-in housekeepers in various situations were not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. The Employment Appeal Tribunal clarified how tribunals should approach the issue

Whilst the National Minimum Wage applies to most workers there are exceptions for certain classes of worker. One such class applies to the worker who lives in the employer’s home and is treated as a member of their family.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal said that the question whether a worker is integrated into a family must be considered holistically. No one factor is to be decisive but tribunals should pay particular regard to the provision of accommodation and meals and the sharing of tasks and leisure activities. Other matters such as the general dignity with which the domestic worker is treated may  be taken into account, as  may  the degree of privacy and autonomy they are afforded and the extent to which, if at all, they are exploited.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal went on to say that the ‘sharing of tasks’ does not include the work which the worker was employed to do – it means the tasks that are performed by the family as a family unit. It was not necessary to show that such tasks were undertaken jointly with the family, or that the tasks performed by the family and the worker were equivalent.

Taking into account the facts the Employment Appeal Tribunal was satisfied that the workers in question fell within the exception. Accordingly, it held that they were not entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage.

Case reference: Miss M S L Julio & Others v Ms F Jose & Others

Exploitation of the workers was not an issue here. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal indicated that if it had been, the workers would not have been treated as family members and would, therefore, have been entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage.

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The Court of Appeal has clarified the employment status of Methodist Ministers.

The Methodist Minister in this case resigned from her post and then went on to present a claim for unfair constructive dismissal against the President of the Methodist Conference. In order for her to succeed in her claim it was necessary for her to demonstrate that she was an employee of the Methodist Conference.

Before this the Courts had held that the spiritual nature of the work of a Minister of Religion meant the law presumed they could not be working under a contract of employment though this could be rebutted. However, the Court of Appeal recognised that the law has evolved and said that such decisions should no longer be followed. It said that there is no basis for concluding that a minister’s spiritual role in itself precludes an intention to create a contractual employment relationship. Accordingly, it ruled that she was an employee and, therefore, able to bring a claim for unfair constructive dismissal.

This case applied to a Methodist Minister appointed by a congregation or group of congregations, however there must now be a risk that other Ministers of religion may also be found to be employees .

Case reference: President of the Methodist Conference v Preston (formerly Moore).

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