In the news this month:

In the news this month: Autumn Budget, whistleblower dismissals, social events and employer liability, data breach by aggrieved employee, proposed rules on worker’s tips, mandatory Ethnicity Pay Reporting plans, and recognition of professional qualifications post-Brexit.

Autumn Budget: Key Employment Announcements

The Autumn Budget included the following key points for employers:

  1. From April 2019, the National Minimum Wage the government will increase the national minimum wage to the following:
    • Apprentices: £3.90 an hour;
    • 16-17 year olds: £4.35 an hour;
    • 18-20 year olds: £6.15 an hour;
    • 21-24 year olds: £7.70 an hour;
    • National living wage (workers aged 25 and over): £8.21 an hour.
  2. The income tax personal allowance will from April 2019 be increased to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold (the sum of the personal allowance and the basic rate limit) to £50,000. These thresholds will remain at the same level in 2020-21 and thereafter will rise in line with the consumer prices index.
  3. From April 2019, favourable changes will take effect to the terms applied to the apprenticeship levy, and for small companies to the “co-investment rate” for apprenticeship training.
  4. The introduction of employer Class 1A National Insurance contributions on termination payments over £30,000 has been delayed until April 2020.
  5. The public sector off-payroll working rules will be extended to the private sector from 6 April 2020. The rules will only apply to large and medium-sized businesses, with the existing IR35 rules continuing to apply to small businesses.

NED’s personally liable for whistleblowing dismissal

Case: Timis and another v Osipov

The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that two non-executive directors (NEDs) were liable for their part in dismissing a whistleblower. NED A instructed NED B to dismiss an employee, which he did. The Court found that these actions constituted unlawful detriment on the ground that the employee had made protected disclosures (or “blown the whistle”), and therefore that the NEDs could be personally liable for post-dismissal losses on a joint and several basis with the employer, which had been found to have unfairly dismissed the employee by reason of whistleblowing.

This decision makes the scheme of protection for whistleblowers as effective as that for victims of other kinds of unlawful discrimination and victimisation. Employers should therefore use workplace training to highlight to managers, employees and other workers this potential extra personal liability.

Employer liable for assault by MD during post-Christmas party drinks

Case: Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited

The Court of Appeal has held that a company was vicariously liable for an assault carried out by the managing director on another employee, which left that employee seriously injured. While the impromptu drinks session where the assault occurred was not a seamless extension of the company’s Christmas party, the managing director had chosen to wear his “metaphorical managing director’s hat” during this session by delivering a lecture to his team about his rights as managing director.  The Court was however keen to point out that the facts of this case were unusual, and it should not be taken as authority for the proposition that employers become insurers for violent or tortious acts by their employees. Liability will not arise just because there is an argument about work matters between colleagues which leads to an assault, even when one colleague is markedly more senior than another.

“No-deal Brexit” Professional Qualification concerns

Professionals such as doctors, nurses, dental practitioners, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists, lawyers and architects who gained their professional qualification in another EEA country but whose qualifications have been formally recognised before Exit day, will also not be affected. However, EEA professionals wanting to practise their profession in the UK who have not started an application for a recognition decision before Exit day on 29 March 2019 will be subject to new arrangements. The government has not yet published details of these new arrangements, but will do so before Exit day.

Employer liable for deliberate disclosure of personal data by employee

Case: Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc against a High Court ruling that it was vicariously liable for an employee’s deliberate, and criminal, disclosure of co-workers’ personal data on the internet.

Proposed Legislation on Workers’ Tips

The government has announced plans to prevent employers from keeping tips intended to go to their workers. New legislation to be introduced at “the earliest opportunity” will help tackle situations where tips are not passed on either fully or at all.

Consultation on Ethnicity Pay Reporting proposals

The government has launched a series of measures to tackle barriers facing ethnic minorities in the workplace. Key to the government’s strategy is the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay reporting, given the low uptake of voluntary pay reporting. In the consultation document, Ethnicity Pay Reporting, the government sets out its proposals for a mandatory approach, along similar lines to gender pay gap reporting which was introduced in April 2017. The consultation on these proposals is open until 11 January 2019, and seeks employers’ views on practical matters including the most appropriate method of reporting and the size of employer that should be subject to mandatory reporting, with the government’s preference being employers with 250 or more employees.