Dominic Cummings and Employee Confidentiality

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings – the Brexit bromance has exploded spectacularly all over the papers. The thing that stands out to an employment lawyer about this week’s very public spat, is just how much data Cummings has retained in his possession relating to his former employment.

 

Cummings’ blog says  “I have made the offer to hand odom 150x150 Dominic Cummings and Employee Confidentialityver some private text messages, even though I am under no legal obligation to do so….

 

 

 

 

We would really love to have a look at that man’s contract of employment. Most employees, especially senior executives, have extensive clauses in their contracts of employment or service agreements that govern what they are allowed to do with confidential information both during and after the termination of their employment. The nannies in C-list celebrity families are bound up in more restrictions about what they can say than Dominic Cummings appears to be.

From an employment law perspective, the whole thing is astonishing. obligations in a contract of employment usually last in perpetuity and employers take them very seriously. Problems around them often arise in relation to restrictions on working with clients and competitors in a subsequent role, or sometimes due to whistleblowing.

These issues are complex and worth seeking proper legal advice on. We regularly assist employees who are struggling with these problems at Fox Whitfield.

If you think we can help, please contact Sarah Russell on 07985 106 233.

COVID-19 Redundancies

Sadly many people will be made redundant in the coming weeks and months. This is an interesting article by the Telegraph about how to negotiate the best deal https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/job-risk-coronavirus-negotiate-best-settlement-deal/

We would add to this that the following are crucial:

1. Settlement agreements often contain a clause that says that your offer won’t be valid if you have received or are expecting an alternative offer of employment or a self-employed work. It is a good idea to get the agreement negotiated and signed off asap (even if the termination date is well into the future) so that you can safely commence your job search.

2. Many of our clients have restrictive covenants in their contracts of employment – clauses that will prevent you from working elsewhere in your industry. Clients sometimes assume that these are unenforceable or won’t be enforced and we often advise where this assumption has proven false. It is very important that you understand these restrictions and that they are removed or reduced via the settlement agreement.

3. Only speak to your immediate family about what is going on. Many settlement agreements contain retrospective confidentiality clauses that become a problem if people have spoken to friends or colleagues about problems at work.

4. Trust your gut. If you feel there is something not quite right about how you are being dealt with by your employer, you are probably right. Start taking notes of the conversations you have with them and seek legal advice at an early stage.

5. Instruct a good solicitor. You don’t have to come to us with a completed agreement. We can advise you on negotiation strategy behind the scenes, or conduct the negotiation for you. It’s what we do for a living, so we’re experienced at maximising the amount on offer whilst preserving your reputation.

Client Feedback

paul whitfield manchester office Client Feedback

Sometimes it’s easy to become jaded with the law and the demands of work. Then once in a while a client reminds you that what you do really matters to them, the hard work made a difference and that they really appreciated what you did.

I recently settled a case for a client. He was an employee with a strong case. He had legal expenses cover but the advice he was getting from the insurance company lawyer wasn’t great. They told him it wasn’t worth doing anything and that they wouldn’t cover his costs.

I thought it was worth him doing something and he was willing to pay some fees himself. We issued his claim and it then quickly settled for more than twice the sum the insurance company thought it was worth. The client was very happy and offered to write me a testimonial.

What he wrote was this: –

I was was referred to Paul Whitfield of Fox Whitfield by a friend. I wasn’t getting much support from the legal cover on my home insurance. Paul stepped in and won an out of court settlement on an unfair dismissal dispute. He handled the whole case and guided me through the process. Paul knows what he is doing, he is very professional and provides an outstanding service.”

The icing on the cake for my client was that I have now managed to get his insurance company to cover all of the costs they had initially refused. Money from employers is hard to get, but getting money from insurance companies is a whole new level of difficult!

My client is delighted and I am reminded why, sometimes, this is a great way to make a living.

Paul Whitfield is the Principal Solicitor at Fox Whitfield.

Fox Whitfield can advise HR, employers and employees on disciplinary processes, procedures and unfair dismissal claims. We can also arrange meetings in the evenings or at weekends to work around your working hours.

www.foxwhitfield.com

0161 283 1276

Employment Law Solicitors – Head Office based in Manchester with offices located throughout the United Kingdom.

HR overstepping their remit?

What are the proper limits of HR in a dismissal? Can HR tell a manager what the outcome of a disciplinary hearing should be or is their role limited to providing advice and guidance of the law and procedure?

This was looked at by the EAT in a decision this month in the case of Ramphal v Department for Transport.

An employee was accused of misuse of his company credit card and was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result. The manager who took the decision to dismiss appeared to have initially felt that this was a case where there was no dishonesty and so the employee should be given a warning for misconduct. However, the manager appears to have changed their mind after advice from HR to find that it was gross misconduct and that they had to dismiss the employee.

In order for any dismissal to be fair the employer must have a potentially fair reason to dismiss but they must also follow a fair procedure the “Was it reasonable to dismiss in all the circumstances” test.

The EAT said that the issue in the case was: “for the dismissal to be fair there has to be a fair investigation and dismissal procedure.  If the integrity of the final decision to dismiss has been influenced by persons outside the procedure it, in my opinion, will be unfair, all the more so if the Claimant has no knowledge of it

They also gave the following guidance that HR must take into account:

“an employee facing disciplinary charges and a dismissal procedure is entitled to assume that the decision will be taken by the appropriate officer, without having been lobbied by other parties as to the findings he should make as to culpability, and that he should be given notice of any changes in the case he has to meet so that he can deal with them, and also given notice of representations made by others to the Dismissing Officer that go beyond legal advice, and advice on matter of process and procedure.

The EAT have referred the case back to the Employment Tribunal to determine on the specific facts “whether the influence of Human Resources was improper“.

This case is a very useful reminder that the decision to dismiss an employee must be taken by the manager hearing the case and not by HR or other interested parties. Evidence that the decision was in fact made by someone else is very likely to render a dismissal an unfair dismissal particularity if that fact is not disclosed to the employee during the dismissal process.

Fox Whitfield can advise HR, employers and employees on disciplinary processes, procedures and unfair dismissal claims.

www.foxwhitfield.com

0161 283 1276

Employment Law Solicitors – Head Office based in Manchester with offices located throughout the United Kingdom.

 

UNISON LOSES COURT OF APPEAL CASE CHALLENGING TRIBUNAL FEES

The Court of Appeal has rejected Unison’s challenge of Employment Tribunal and EAT fees.

Since the introduction of Tribunal and EAT fees on 29 July 2013 there has been a steady decline in the number of claims issued.

In July 2013 the trade union Unison sought judicial review and a quashing of the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013. It argued that the fees regime breached the EU principles of equivalence and effectiveness, had been implemented without due regard to the Government’s public sector equality duty, and gave rise to indirect discrimination.

The High Court first heard the claim in the autumn of 2013, and handed down judgment in February 2014. The High Court was unconvinced by the evidence before it regarding the impact of the Fees Order and preferred to ‘wait and see’ and allow any problems to be addressed by the Lord Chancellor.

Following the rejection of the first claim and statistics supporting a dramatic fall in Employment Tribunal claims Unison brought a second claim, which was heard in October 2014. However, in a judgment handed down in December 2014 the High Court held that the statistics were not enough to show that any individual had been prevented from bringing a claim by the level of fees. It also held that any indirect discrimination in the Fees Order was justified by reference to the Lord Chancellor’s stated aims of transferring a proportion (one third) of the running costs of Employment Tribunals and the EAT to service users who could afford it; improving efficiency by deterring unmeritorious claims and encouraging alternative methods of dispute resolution. Unison appealed both High Court decisions to the Court of Appeal.

Today the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment. The Court acknowledged that it has been a longstanding principle of EU law that, “persons who claim that their rights under EU law have been breached must have access to an effective remedy for that breach otherwise the rights in question would be illusory” but the Court rejected Unison’s argument that this principle had been breached by the Fees Order. Whilst accepting that evidence in respect of notional, rather than actual, Claimants could be relevant it was held that the provision in the remission regime allowing for “exceptional circumstances” meant that it could not be said that the fee system in general was so unaffordable so as to mean that there was no effective remedy under EU law.

The Court also dismissed arguments based on indirect discrimination agreeing with the conclusion that any potential discrimination could be objectively justified. It was also not accepted that the public sector equality duty had not been complied with and found that the Equality Impact Assessment undertaken by the Lord Chancellor had identified the possibility that the Fees Order would have a greater impact on people with a protected characteristic but concluded that this would be cancelled out by the availability of remission.

Unison have said that they will seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Government also continues with its review of the fees regime. However, for the time being, it looks like Tribunal fees are here to stay.

Fox Whitfield can provide advice and assistance on all types of Employment Tribunal matters (whether bringing / defending a claim) as well as exploring alternative methods of resolving employment disputes.

If you require further advice or assistance you can contact me (Dionne Dury) on 01173305980 or email me at dionned@foxwhitfield.com