Brownbill v St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust

The Newcastle Employment Tribunal has issued its Pre Hearing Review decision in the equal pay case of Brownbill and others v St Helens and Knowsley Hospital NHS Trust. The issues in dispute in this case were:-

  • whether Claimants who were already paid more basic pay that their comparators could benefit from the comparators' more favourable unsocial hours uplift. The Tribunal decided then they could not ; and
  • what constitutes basic pay for the purposes of comparison when considering an uplift for unsocial hours? The ET decided that an uplift payment for working unsocial hours must be construed as an increase to basic pay in these cases. The tribunal was mindful that a hospital environment is very much a 24-hour operation and shift work was so common that it should be construed as part of the normal working hours of the Claimants, who were Healthcare Assistants and receptionists.

The decision was favourable for the Trust and it is expected a flood of other Respondents will now take this point in any similar cases they are dealing with. It is likely the decision will be appealed and we will keep you updated on developments

Agency Workers Regulations 2010 update

On 15 October 2009 the Government published its second consultation document in relation to the implementation of the Agency Workers Directive in which it has set out the draft regulations by which it proposes to implement the Directive into UK law. The consultation on the proposed regulations remained open until 11 December 2009 and it is the Government’s stated intention to introduce the final Regulations in October 2011. 

In addition to the draft regulations, in early 2010 the Government also plans to set up a working group of representative stakeholders to look at the practical implications of the regulations.  Bevan Brittan LLP will be providing further details of the content and potential impact of the regulations as soon as the final set of regulations have been published.  

Abolition of tax relief on childcare vouchers for higher rate taxpayers only

As we reported in the October News Round-up, the Prime Minister had announced in his closing speech to the Labour party conference that tax relief on employer-supported childcare, i.e. childcare vouchers, will be removed by April 2015.

In the face of a potential revolt by the public and labour back benchers against this suggestion, the Financial Times reported on 15 November 2009 that Gordon Brown had announced plans to limit the reforms to remove tax relief for higher rate taxpayers only.

However, the Prime Minister has now confirmed, in a letter to Labour backbenchers, that the childcare voucher scheme will continue for the time-being and existing users of the scheme will continue to receive their current tax exemptions, but:

  • From 2011, all new entrants to the scheme, including higher rate taxpayers, will only get basic rate tax relief of 20%.
  • The scheme will be scrapped entirely for all users by 2015.

Draft Immigration Bill

A draft Immigration Bill, aimed at simplifying and consolidating 40 years of immigration laws, was published on 12 November 2009. Details of the Bill will be scrutinised by Parliament in the New Year. A public consultation on the future framework of the Immigration Rules was also launched on 12 November 2009 and the consultation document Simplifying Immigration Law - A New Framework for Immigration Rules sets out proposals for simplifying the Rules.

Guidance on workplace harassment

'Preventing Workplace Harassment and Violence – joint guidance implementing a European social partner agreement' was launched on 17 November 2009.  The aim of the guidance is to raise awareness of the issue of workplace harassment and violence, as well as to provide a framework for identifying and managing the problem. It is the first time the CBI, the Partnership of Public Employers and the TUC have collaborated.

Evening sessions for ET

Stratford and Cardiff Employment Tribunals are piloting a six month scheme which will see them sitting between 6pm and 8pm in the evenings to hear straightforward claims involving a judge sitting alone.