LIFE BITE: Tribunal orders compensation to 143 ex Ulster University staff after “very serious failure” to consult over Redundancies

apple-150579_1280The University and College Union has won a case against the University of Ulster over its failure to consult on redundancies, securing the maximum award for staff involved. 

 

The case was taken by University College Union when 143 members of teaching and other staff lost their jobs in April 2016, after the University suffered a substantial reduction in DEL funding. Some of the University faculties were closed at the time and undergraduate numbers were reduced.

The Tribunal held that large scale redundancies were inevitable by June 2015 and that discussions ought to have begun with the Union much earlier than they did.  The University had failed in its obligations, both under statute and its own redundancy policy.  They found that the process was a “fait accompli” with no opportunity for input by the Trade Union who were “actively mislead” and “ostracised” by the University management.   The Union were provided with insufficient time and information to meaningfully engage with counter proposals. Effectively, the Tribunal said, the University “put a gun” to the heads of the affected employees.

The University’s failures, the Tribunal said, meant that some staff were treated very poorly which was a “deeply unsatisfactory consequence”. The Tribunal found that  failures were deliberate and there was an intention to keep the Union out of the process.

The case looked at the law on the duty to consult about redundancies and whether this had been complied with.  It considered whether these redundancies amounted to dismissals, which it found they had.  Consideration was also given to what protective award should be made to which staff and for what period. The Tribunal made the maximum award of compensation finding that the University failed egregiously in its duties.

Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors acted for the University College Union in this very significant case, with Counsel Tom Brown, from Cloisters.

Martin Hanna, Partner, Francis Hanna & Co, said:

“We are delighted with this result which has significant ramifications not only for the Trade Union and staff involved but also for the university and other employers, employees and unions involved in redundancies. The decision provides important guidance for employers on the duty to consult with Trade Unions and the timeliness and sufficiency of that consultation. Further it serves as an important reminder of the effect of an employer failing to adhere to its legal obligations.”

Should you require any further information on any aspect of Employment law or redundancy, please feel free to contact us here.

LIFE BITE: Starbucks Employee wins Disability Discrimination case

apple-150579_1280The media reported yesterday that a dyslexic woman accused by her employer Starbucks of falsifying documents  has won a disability discrimination case against her employer.

A Tribunal found Meseret Kumulchew had been discriminated against after making mistakes due to her difficulties with reading, writing and telling the time.

Ms Kumulchew was a supervisor at a Starbucks in Clapham.  One of her job roles was to be responsible for taking the temperature of fridges and water at specific times and entering the results in a duty roster.   After mistakenly entering wrong information on the roster,  she was accused by Starbucks of falsifying documents.

Ms Kumulchew told the Tribunal that she had always made it known to her employer that she was dyslexic and claimed disability discrimination after she was accused of fraud.  The Tribunal found Starbucks had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Ms Kumulchew’s disability and had discriminated against her because of the effects of her dyslexia.   The level of compensation to be awarded to Ms Kumulchew has yet to be decided.

Discrimination happens when an employer treats one employee less favourably than others.  It could happen in a case like Ms  Kumulchew’s or in other instances – for example,  if a female employee is being paid less than a male colleague for doing the same job, or if an employee from a minority ethnic community being refused the training opportunities offered to other colleagues.

There are specific laws against some types of discrimination (called ‘unlawful discrimination’). If your employer treats you less favourably for an unlawful reason, you may be able to take action.

If you require legal advice relating to disability discrimination or if you feel you have been discriminated against by your employer in any other way, please contact us  mgavin@fhanna.co.uk or leave your comments confidentially below

The Office Christmas Party: Jingle Bells or Alarm Bells??

office-partyMary Gavin, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Law department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors has provided us with this guest blog on some steps employers should take to ensure an incident-free Christmas party _____________________________________________________________________________________

As the festive season fast approaches, many employers and employees look forward to enjoying a Christmas dinner with colleagues ……at the expense of the boss!

Most parties pass off without incident, (perhaps the odd blush) but others can have dramatic consequences which not only sour the party mood but can jeopardise an employee’s livelihood.
The relaxed atmosphere may prompt individuals to behave in a way which would never arise or be tolerated in the workplace. They may act inappropriately towards another colleague whether by unwanted advances or aggressive conduct. They may harass another colleague under the guise of “banter” or perhaps attend the workplace the following morning whilst still under the influence.

So, what can you do as an employer to prevent bad behaviour from your staff at the Christmas office party?

Prior to the office Christmas party, an employer should provide a clear policy on the standards of behaviour expected and what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable.  It may seem that reiterating that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated is stating the obvious however, the old adage of when “the drink’s in the wit’s out” couldn’t be more relevant at this time of year.  A reminder should be given in writing that instances of misconduct will not be tolerated at a work-related events and employees should be left in no doubt that such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action or potentially dismissal.

On the issue of alcohol, an employer should consider monitoring employees’ intake of alcohol not only if an individual appears to have had “one too many” but to ensure that the intended generosity is not used as an aggravating factor which the employee holds the employer responsible for.

No one wants to put a dampener on the festivities,  but employers should be aware that they can be held liable for the acts of their employees if an act is deemed to have been committed in the course of employment.   An office Christmas party is inextricably linked to employment so caution must be exercised.  Consideration should also be given to how individuals are getting home and appropriate advice or arrangements made.

The above is not an exhaustive guide as to the steps that can be taken to prevent employees from behaving inappropriately and it should be borne in mind that a potential Tribunal case will not only be brought against the perpetrator of the behaviour but also the employer.  Having a clear policy in place is evidence that reasonable steps were taken by an employer to prevent inappropriate behaviour from occurring.

Any employer is loath to turn a celebratory event which is ultimately an acknowledgement of employees’ hard work throughout the year into something where an employee could risk facing disciplinary sanctions!  But staff should be aware that they must conduct themselves at the same level of any work-related event. In short, just because it is a “party” it does not mean it is an exception to the usual policies and procedures that would apply in the workplace.

MGavinMary Gavin is an Associate with Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. If you have any queries in relation to any employment law matter she can be contacted on 90234901 or at mgavin@fhanna.co.uk