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A number of research projects have highlighted the prevalence of bullying in workplaces across Britain and the detrimental effect it can have on those who experience it. A recent study, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, has found that the impact of bullying isn’t restricted to the direct victim and their families, but can also be felt by the victim’s colleagues.

Study into bullying

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire conducted a survey to find out how wide ranging the impact of bullying at work could be.

They questioned survey respondents about their experiences of supervisory abuse, vicarious supervisory abuse, job frustration, perceived organisational support, and co-worker abuse. 

Abusive supervision

According to the researchers, abusive supervision is considered a dysfunctional type of leadership and includes a sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviours toward subordinates.

“Although the effects of abusive supervision may not be as physically harmful as other types of dysfunctional behavior, such as workplace violence or aggression, the actions are likely to leave longer-lasting wounds,” said Paul Harvey, associate professor of organisational behaviour at UNH, “in part, because abusive supervision can continue for a long time.”

Vicarious supervisory abuse

Vicarious supervisory abuse takes place when abusive bosses negatively impact the work environment for the co-workers of employees that they are bullying. These co-workers suffer from “second-hand” or vicarious abusive supervision, by observing or being aware of a supervisor abusing a co-worker. 

This can happen in a number of different ways, including:

  • an employee hearing rumours of abusive behaviour from co-workers, 
  • reading about such behaviours in an email, 
  • or actually witnessing the abuse of a co-worker. 

The researchers found that first-hand supervisory abuse and second-hand vicarious supervisory abuse can result in similar negative effects, such as:

  • greater job frustration, 
  • a tendency to abuse other co-workers, and 
  • a lack of perceived organisational support.

Unsurprisingly, these effects were found to be intensified if the co-worker was a victim of both kinds of supervisory abuse.

Bullying and harassment in the UK

Bullying and harassment are a relatively common occurrence in Britain’s workplaces. A recent study by Canada Life Group Insurance found that around a quarter of employees have experienced bullying at work. Ten percent of employees reported taking time off as sick leave to avoid bullying, and 11% said they have done so because they say have been treated unfairly by a line manager.

It is important that employers act quickly to resolve any incidences of bullying or harassment in the workplace. Failure to do so could result in stress for the affected employees, higher rates of sickness absence, and ultimately the possibility of an employment tribunal claim.

The latest estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that the total number of cases of stress in 2011/12 was 428,000 (40%) out of a total of 1,073,000 for all work-related illnesses.

The figures also show that the main causes of work related stress were work pressure, lack of managerial support and work-related violence and bullying.

Low-wage earners

Posted by on in Employment Contract

Recent statistics from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, have revealed that one out of six employees (17%) in the EU27 was a low-wage earner in 2010.

This proportion varied significantly between Member States, with the highest percentages observed in Latvia (27.8%), and the lowest in Sweden (2.5%).

Low-wage earners are defined as those employees earning two thirds or less of the national median gross hourly earnings. Therefore, the thresholds that determine low-wage earners are relative and specific to each Member State.

There are large differences between men and women regarding the proportion of low-wage earners. In the EU27 in 2010, 21.2% of female employees were low-wage earners, compared with 13.3% of male employees.

In all Member States, except Bulgaria, there was a larger share of female employees who were low-wage earners than male.

The level of education plays an important role: the lower the level, the higher is the likelihood of being a low-wage earner. In the EU27 in 2010, 29.0% of employees with a low education level were low-wage earners, compared with 19.3% of those with a medium level and 5.8% of those with a high level.

The type of contract also has a significant impact. In the EU27 in 2010, 31.3% of employees with a contract of limited duration were low-wage earners, compared with 15.7% for those with an indefinite contract.

A Christmas bonus came top of bosses’ wish list in a poll published by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM), though 79% of managers said they weren’t actually expecting to receive one this year.

In a survey of over 1,500 managers, 38% said a bonus would be the best Christmas present they could get from their company. A promotion was the second choice with 15%, followed closely by more staff (13%) and more training (12%). 

Meanwhile, with nearly two thirds (62%) of offices getting ready for the work Christmas party, the survey found that a fifth (20%) dread their workplace celebrations and almost a third (31%) of managers worry about the possible fallout following the festive party.

Topping the list of their concerns are: team members drinking too much (72%); colleagues becoming aggressive and arguing (38%); and attendance in the office and productivity suffering the following day due to hangovers (29%).

Almost two fifths (38%) of managers are expecting to see a drop in productivity in the run up to Christmas, with many noticing their colleagues seem more stressed (24%), distracted (28%) and tired (24%).

One in ten managers said they have had to discipline staff members after the Christmas party due to inappropriate behaviour in the past.

Industrial action is no longer the threat it was for employers, particularly in the private sector, but trade unions are finding new ways to put employers under pressure, according to new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The report highlights national figures that show the average number of days lost each year due to industrial action has been under one million over the last twenty years, compared to 12.9 million in the 1970’s and 7.2 million in the 1980’s. The great majority of days lost each year have been in the public sector (92% in 2011) and over half of all days lost have been for one day only.

However, although the number of stoppages has reduced dramatically this does not mean that industrial conflict has gone away. The report highlights the changing nature of industrial action and the tactics now being deployed by trade unions keen to get their messages across. These include:

  • Ballots, and threats of ballots, for industrial action, used as a tool to persuade employers to negotiate: ONS figures show that in 2011 there were almost 1,000 ballots, of which only 149 were followed by stoppages of work.
  • Street demonstrations, with trade unions making a common cause with other community or political groups, such as on the national ‘day of action’ organised by the TUC in September 2011.
  • Threats to damage an employer’s reputation or brand, which can be quite powerful: in some cases, simply being subject to industrial action can be seen as damaging by the employer.

A blueprint for supporting more British businesses to become employee-owned has been announced by the Minister for Employment Relations, Jo Swinson.

The Government wants to help boost the size of the sector, by ensuring employee ownership is more widely understood and easier to establish.

Responding to recommendations made by Graeme Nuttall in his independent review of the sector, the Government has approved plans for a range of activity that will help to grow the number of businesses that become or convert to the employee ownership model.

The plans include assessing whether to establish an independent Institute for Employee Ownership, an ‘off the shelf’ model for setting up an employee owned business, work to examine the guidance on tax issues relating to employee ownership, a guide for staff and employers to request and agree an employee ownership takeover and work with the John Lewis Partnership to examine the barriers to funding for private sector employee owned companies.

One in five workers in the UK – some 4.82 million people – are paid less than the ‘Living Wage’, new research from accountancy firm KPMG has shown.

In a difficult climate of rising prices and increasing costs of living, the impact is falling hardest on these low paid workers with over four in ten saying that their finances are worse now than they were just one month ago.

The Living Wage is a voluntary rate of pay that some employers give their staff, designed to enable workers to afford a basic standard of living. The rate is currently £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 outside. This compares to the national minimum wage rate of £6.19 an hour.

The research finds that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people earning below the Living Wage at 24%, followed by Wales at 23%. The lowest proportion of sub-Living Wage earners is in London and the South East, both at 16%. However, by number of people rather than proportion, London, the North West and the South East are the most affected areas.

A consultation setting out plans for a new employment status called an ‘employee owner’ has been published by the Government.

Under the scheme, employee owners will have a different set of employment rights and they will be given shares in the company of between £2,000 and £50,000. The employment rights affected are:

  • unfair dismissal rights (apart from automatically unfair reasons and where dismissal is based on discriminatory grounds),
  • rights to redundancy pay,
  • certain statutory rights to request training,
  • the statutory right to request flexible working, and
  • employee owners will have to give more notice to their employer of their intention to return from maternity or adoption leave early.

An employer will be able to choose the new status and still choose to offer more rights to their staff (e.g. the right to request flexible working or higher levels of contractual redundancy pay).

Legislation to bring in the new employee owner contract will be introduced via the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, with the aim of companies being able to offer the new type of contract from April 2013.

Women's entrepreneurial potential is underexploited and the EU needs more women entrepreneurs to create growth and new jobs.

This was the main message of the European SME Week Summit in Brussels, which focused on encouraging women to consider setting up and running their own business, usually a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

The fact that women only account for 34.4% of the self-employed in Europe suggests that they need more encouragement to become entrepreneurs.

While European women are at least as well educated as men, only a few decide to set up a company in the fifteen years following their graduation. Lack of take-up can partly be explained by difficulties they encounter in reconciling private and professional activities.

In addition, existing business set-up support systems are not always tailored to women’s specific needs. Concerns faced by potential women entrepreneurs include greater difficulty accessing financing, professional networks and training and a possible lack of confidence due to the absence of appropriate role models.

Women also tend to be cautious and take more calculated risks, and to focus on creating companies in familiar areas and for which they can benefit from family support. They can fail to take full advantage of networking opportunities and often grow their businesses slowly and only if their family situation allows them to work long hours with a good probability of success. Women therefore require tailor-made support measures when setting up their businesses.

The TUC has issued a statement in response to the Government's recent announcement that it is to repeal sections of the Equality Act, less than two years after the legislation was introduced.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'Getting rid of third party harassment will make working life even harder for the thousands of care home staff, teachers and health workers who suffer prejudice and abuse from those they are trying to help.

'And taking away the power of tribunals to make recommendations to employers will make it much more difficult to deal with employers who serially bully and discriminate against their staff.

'These changes are in line with wider government plans to weaken employment rights and let bad bosses off the hook. This is no way to create the decent full-time jobs that this country so desperately needs.'

Middle management and junior staff starting their careers are under intense pressure in the workplace, according to a new study published by business performance consultants Lane4.

Almost half of workers (43%) now report feeling under pressure at work, says the study of 1,500 British employees, carried out by OnePoll. Middle management suffer the greatest stress levels, with two in five (39%) under severe stress.

Worryingly, one in five (20%) reported that junior staff just starting their careers also felt extreme pressure.

Because of the current economic climate, over a third (34%) are desperately worried about their job security. As a result, nearly one in five (17%) workers feel they have also been given additional work, increasing their workload dramatically.

Forty-eight percent of workers have actually had their workload increased following redundancies at their company, while nearly a quarter (24%) of workers are taking on extra projects to assist colleagues who are struggling to cope with their workload.

Nationally, both a third of male and female employees had severe fears about their current job. But the survey reveals that the most insecure region is the North West, with one in seven (16%) fearing they could lose their jobs, compared to only 3% of workers in East Anglia.


Government plans to increase the minimum wage by 1.8% for adult workers and freeze the rate for young workers will result in the lowest paid suffering a real terms pay cut, the TUC has claimed.

The TUC said that with inflation running at 2.9% (RPI), around 940,000 people, two-thirds of whom are women, would see a further squeeze on their living standards, with young people being hit the hardest.

Commenting on the new rates, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'While we are pleased that government has rejected the siren calls of some employers to freeze the minimum wage for adult workers and apprentices, these increases are still far below inflation and will leave the lowest paid facing a real terms cut.

'These new rates are a particular blow to younger people who will face the biggest hit on their living standards. There is no evidence that the minimum wage has had an adverse impact on young people's employment so it is hard to see the logic behind their pay freeze.

'Today's rate increases do not do enough to help hard-pressed families. We need a bolder increase next year otherwise the real incomes of minimum wage workers will continue to fall, along with consumer demand.'

The CBI has published its analysis of the impact of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWRs) a year after they came into force, in which it describes the regulations as a 'drag on job creation in this vital sector.'

The CBI has identified a number of priorities for the upcoming Government review of the regulations, which include:

  • Streamlining the highly complex definition of pay to allow for easier comparison.
  • Simplifying the 12-week qualification period so that those on short-term assignments aren’t needlessly caught up in the regulations.
  • Removing gold-plating where the regulations specifically go beyond that required by the directive and UK implementation agreement.
  • Stripping out the perverse incentive in the regulations to lodge opportunistic tribunal claims.

Key statistics about the agency sector in the UK include:

  • CBI research has shown that 57% of firms that use temps have reduced their use as a result of the regulations, 3% have increased their use, while 8% have stopped using temps all together.
  • TEAM research found that 38% of agencies reported a decline in assignments as a result of the regulations, and 18% reported an increase.
  • The same survey found that 62% of agencies reported a negative experience of the regulations.
  • BIS research prior to the implementation of the regulations showed that agency workers received, on average, 96% of the pay of comparable employees.

According to Deloitte’s new global talent survey four out of five (80%) employees plan to stay with their organisations over the next year, a significant increase from 2011 when nearly 65% were planning to leave.

Forty-six percent of the survey respondents indicate they are less inclined to move because, in the last 12 months, they have changed jobs (9%), were promoted (22%), or have taken new positions (15%) with their current employers. Surprisingly, however, nearly one-third (31%) say they are not satisfied with their jobs.

According to the survey, the top five reasons people seek new employment are primarily non-financial:

  • Lack of career progress (27%)
  • New opportunities in the market (22%)
  • Dissatisfaction with manager or supervisor (22%)
  • Lack of challenge in the job (21%)
  • Lack of compensation increases (21%)

However, the top five retention incentives for employees are primarily financial:

  • Additional bonuses or financial incentives (44%)
  • Promotion/job advancement (42%)
  • Additional compensation (41%)
  • Flexible work arrangements (26%)
  • Support and recognition from supervisors or managers (25%).

Many of the recent increases in women's employment levels have been in self-employment and involuntary part-time work, which poses a threat to their pay and job security, according to the TUC's latest economic report.

While male unemployment rose fastest during the first two years of the recession, female unemployment has risen more sharply in the last two years, mainly due to public sector job losses.

The report shows that the type of work women are doing has changed considerably since the recession. While the number of women in full-time employee jobs has fallen by 170,000, nearly 200,000 more women now describe themselves as being self-employed.

The poor pay associated with self-employment is shown by pay trends over the last decade. The median income of self-employed workers has fallen from £11,300 in 2001 to just £10,300 in 2010, even before allowing for inflation. The average income for employees has risen over the same period and is now nearly twice as high (£18,900).

Self-employed work is also less secure than an employee job, particularly if people are offered 'zero hours' contracts with no guaranteed work.

Despite high levels of female unemployment, the report also shows that the number of women in work is almost as high as before the recession. But this is because there are more women of working age - particularly as state pension age rises have been extending women's working age from 60 in 2010 to 66 in 2017. The number of women not working due to family and caring responsibilities - a figure that has been falling for the last 40 years - has also been unaffected by the recession.

Employment law reforms unveiled

Posted by on in Dismissal

The Government has published details of proposed employment law reforms relating to termination of employment and employment tribunals.

The proposals include:

  • the use of settlement agreements to help end employment relationships in a fair and consensual way. A consultation on how best to make this work in practice has already begun, and Acas has agreed to provide a new code of practice,
  • how it might reduce the cap on compensation for unfair dismissal claims,
  • proposals to streamline employment tribunals by making it easier for judges to dismiss weak cases,
  • responses to its call for evidence on the TUPE rules, when staff transfer to a new employer. Government has heard that businesses want this to be more efficient, and will consult on specific proposals before the end of the year, and
  • recommendations on how to improve guidance for small businesses on the Acas code of practice on discipline and grievance.

The Government also responded formally to the call for evidence on proposals for compensated no fault dismissal for micro-firms. Based on the evidence presented by business the Government will not be taking forward the proposal.

The Government is already delivering significant reforms of employment law, including extending the period for eligibility for unfair dismissal from one to two years, encouraging more effective ways to resolve disputes and thereby reduce the number of employment tribunals, creating a universally portable Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and removing the default retirement age. The Government has considered, or is already taking forward, 80% of proposals from Adrian Beecroft’s report on employment law, published earlier this year.

More women on Europe's boards

Posted by on in Sex Discrimination

New research has found that greater numbers of women are joining the boards of Europe’s largest companies than ever before, and women now account for a third of all new board appointments in 2012.

The analysis, by Egon Zehnder International, the global executive search firm, has revealed an accelerating trend in the participation of women. The share of all board seats held by women has risen by 28% in the past two years to 15.6% (from 12.2% in 2010). This is equivalent to almost half of the total progress from the baseline set in Egon Zehnder’s first analysis in 2004, when only 8.0% of board seats were held by women.

The rapid increase in numbers of European companies with at least one woman on the board is equally impressive, rising to 86% by 2012: a 9% increase since 2010 (79%); and a 41% increase since 2004 when only 61% of all boards included a woman. If this trend continues at the current rate, women will be represented on the boards of all of Europe’s largest companies within the next two to four years and account for 25% of all board roles within the next five years.

However, there is concern that women are particularly under-represented in executive roles, which are often a stepping stone to non-executive board positions. Only one in twenty executive board positions (as opposed to one in six of all board positions) are today held by a woman – and there has been no progress since 2010.

Equally concerning is that despite women’s increasing representation on boards as a whole, the top board leadership roles remain out of reach. Just seven of 415 Chair roles across the companies surveyed were held by a woman, again with no progress since 2010. A key reason for the scarcity of women Chairs is that few women have sufficiently long and broad board experience. The analysis shows that women board members are on average almost five years younger than their male counterparts.

Recent research has found that the UK ranks only 15th out of 34 OECD countries for the number of older workers in employment, lagging the five top countries for by over fifteen percentage points.

The report, by independent think tank the Resolution Foundation, argues that there is a strong desire for longer working lives and a strong need, particularly for those on low to middle incomes. Older women face particular barriers to work, with only 60% of older women employed versus 72% of older men and a large gender pay gap.

The report argues that planned increases in the state pension age are a step in the right direction, increasing financial incentives for older workers to remain in employment, particularly for women. But it warns that without parallel reforms to tackle the other barriers to older employment, the change will hinder rather than help some older women who are unable to find or keep employment.

The study identifies six key barriers which need to be overcome to support greater employment amongst the over 50s:

  • Lack of adequate financial incentives to remain in, or return to, work.
  • Significant caring responsibilities.
  • Lack of employment support to move back into work, including training.
  • Limited access to flexible working opportunities.
  • Continued prevalent age discrimination.
  • Poor health.

A worker who whistle-blew on racism has won his discrimination claim against Royal Mail. Mr Abdul Musa settled for an undisclosed sum in compensation, after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) funded his case and represented him at the employment tribunal.

The tribunal in Manchester agreed that Mr Musa was victimised at work and unfairly dismissed by his employer because he had exposed the racist behaviour of his colleagues. It found that managers at the depot in Blackburn had known racism was an issue in the depot, but failed to act to protect Mr Musa.

According to the EHRC, an internal investigation upheld his complaints, after which Royal Mail sacked one worker and disciplined others. But the Employment Tribunal said the investigation was “shambolic”.

The Tribunal also said managers had failed to investigate Mr Musa’s complaints that union representatives were backing an unofficial campaign to have him sacked by fabricating and colluding in evidence.

The Tribunal concluded that Royal Mail saw Mr Musa as a problem and that his employer decided only his dismissal would resolve the negative reaction from other workers in the depot.

According to a recent poll, two out of five professionals (39%) will not be relaxing properly this summer, but trying to fit in up to three hours’ work each day on their ‘workation’ instead of relaxing by the pool or spending time with their families and friends.

The survey, conducted by Regus, the global workspace provider, also found that amongst those who just can’t switch off are a hard-core minority of serious workaholics: almost one in ten (8%) will work over three hours a day on holiday.

Not only are UK professionals taking too much work on holiday, but far too many will be glued to their smartphones and netbooks, with 25% declaring that they will be operating on a slightly reduced ‘business as usual’ from the sunbed.

Dr Katherine Rake, Chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said: “Developments in technology such as wifi and smartphones have placed the UK on the cusp of a flexible working revolution, allowing people to work at a time and location which best suits their personal and family needs. But this technological change also means it’s now all too easy, and all too tempting, to allow work to encroach on a precious family holiday.

“Employers need to support staff to truly switch off while they are on leave. Bosses must introduce company policies banning themselves and other staff from contacting those taking time off. If they can pledge to save the summer holiday in this way, they will be rewarded with more productive workers returning to the office. They will also be helping to defend family life.”

The average UK worker now puts in more than three weeks of overtime a year – just by answering calls and emails at home, a new study reveals.

In a survey of UK working adults, sponsored by Good Technology, 93% of people continue working when they have left the office – for a total of three hours and 31 minutes each week.  That's a total of 15 hours a month or 183 hours a year – the equivalent of 23 extra working days a year.

But while half do it simply to stay organised, 20% want to impress the boss by putting in the extra hours. A further 37% reply to work emails in bed to keep on top of things.  But they’re also using their mobiles to mix work and their personal life in ways never seen before.

The study also revealed:

• 66% of people check their work emails before 7.00 a.m.
• The average UK worker checks their phone at 6:51 a.m.
• More than a third of people confess that they respond to work emails from bed
• 61% use their commute to read and reply to work emails
• The work day is getting longer – 15% still respond to work email after 10 p.m.
• 65% don’t go to sleep until they’ve had a final check of work emails
• 33% can’t get through Saturday morning without checking their work email
• 29% routinely check work emails whilst at the dinner table; another 16% report actually replying to work emails during their evening meal
• 38% now think their job would be impossible without mobile email
• 15% of UK workers even carry two phones – one for work, one for personal use
• 42% use the same device for both work and personal activity


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