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Gloucestershire Business News

Business expert: £1million damages award for dismissed employee

By James Cronin, director at Eight Legal 

A recent award in a race discrimination and unfair dismissal case highlights the need for employers to be very aware when dealing with any cases that could involve an area of discrimination (protected characteristic) under the Equality Act 2010.

The protected categories are:

• Age

• Disability

• Gender reassignment

• Marriage and Civil Partnership

• Race

• Religion or Belief

• Sex

• Sexual orientation

Mr Hastings had been employed as an IT manager with Kings College Hospital NHS foundation Trust for 19 years. He had an altercation with a contractor and delivery van driver in the car park of the hospital. Mr Hastings, who is of British Caribbean descent, was subjected to racist abuse and had foul and offensive language directed at him when he attempted to make a note of the registration number of the van involved. Mr Hastings also called the hospital security for help but non arrived.

Mr Hastings was suspended and eventually dismissed for Gross Misconduct. The investigation clearly failed to consider his side of the case, despite there being evidence to support him and in spite of his excellent service record of 19 years.

The employment tribunal found that the white contractors were viewed as the victims, whilst Mr Hastings was seen as the aggressor. This was based on preconceptions of him as a black male, even though the CCTV footage contradicted this version of events.

Mr Hastings lodged a grievance alleging racist behaviour towards him, but the employer ignored his side of the story in this and in the disciplinary proceedings.

The tribunal criticised the employer's catalogue of failings which included missing opportunities to gather evidence which may have supported Mr Hastings version of events. They had not sought evidence that might exonerate their employee.

Following his dismissal for gross misconduct Mr Hastings was unable to restart his career despite attempts to do so. He had clearly attempted to reduce the financial damage he had suffered, more formally known as mitigation of loss.

This case clearly underlines the importance of fair, impartial and non-biased investigations, grievance hearings and disciplinary procedures. Employers should remember that as well as the moral case for getting things right, anti-discrimination law also allows damages to be awarded for injury to feelings, and, there is no upper limit on awards.

It is important to remember that it is not just employees or workers who are protected by anti-discrimination law. People applying for jobs, contractors and others are also protected - you can be sued for discrimination without even inviting someone for interview.

Have any questions or in need of additional advice? Contact us on 01242 57016, email info@eightlegal.com or visit our website at www.eightlegal.com.

The information in this article has been produced as general guidance only, and is not a substitute for specific legal advice on any given situation.

Business expert: Maternity and childcare dilemmas in the workplace

21st November 2018

By Kay Hamblin, director at Eight Legal 

Sometimes it's the little, 'simple' questions that can trip employers up, especially around maternity and childcare issues.

Do you know how to handle these situations?

• Sally wants time off to attend ante-natal relaxation classes

• Dave wants to join his partner for a scan appointment

• Jenny has gone into labour and had her baby two weeks before her maternity leave was supposed to start

• Simon has called in to say he can't come to work because his daughter is too ill to go nursery today

• Sarah has had a difficult pregnancy, with lots of time off sick

Ante-natal appointments

Sally - pregnant women are entitled to reasonable, paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments. This includes things like relaxation classes and parentcraft classes that have been recommended by her doctor or midwife.

Dave - as the father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, Dave is entitled to time off to attend up to two ante-natal appointments.

Early birth

Jenny - if a woman has her baby before her maternity leave was due to start, it starts automatically on the day after the birth. Strangely, there is no official guidance about how to treat the day of the birth.

Domestic emergencies

Simon - employees are entitled to 'reasonable' time off to deal with an urgent situation involving a 'dependent', which might be a spouse or partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone else who depends on the employee for care. You don't have to pay them for this time, unless the contract or handbook says differently, but you can allow them to take it as paid annual leave if they request it, and you're happy to.

While it's sensible to keep a record of the time taken, it should be kept separate from sickness absence records.

Sickness absence during pregnancy

Sarah - a pregnant woman who has time off sick should be treated exactly the same as other employees in terms of entitlement to sick pay, both statutory sick pay (SSP) and company sick pay. Any pregnancy-related illness absence should be recorded separately from other sickness absence, and must not be used when calculating 'trigger points' for any action relating to absence.

If she is off sick with a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks leading up to the week the baby is due then her maternity leave will start immediately.

For more detailed answers, read the full article at https://eightlegal.com/maternity-childcare-dilemmas/.

Have any questions or in need of additional advice? Contact us on 01242 57016, email info@eightlegal.com or visit our website at www.eightlegal.com.

Please note - this information is provided for guidance only, and is not a substitute for specific legal advice in any given situation.

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