Expert speaks out on everything you need to know about a Blue Monday job crisis

Blue Monday is considered to be one of the most depressing days of the year for every-day working people.

It’s a day that often leads to self reflection, and encourages many to question life and relationship decisions, but more commonly work-related choices.

With that in mind employees across Wales could be contemplating handing in their notice of resignation this January 21. And CJCH Solicitors’ employment law expert Nigel Daniel revealed that the firm does traditionally experience an upturn in employment queries throughout January.

But where do employees stand legally if they make a snap decision to leave their job? Where do employers stand in this situation? And what happens next?

Here, Mr Daniel answers all the questions that discontented employees, and their employers, may have this Blue Monday.

Do you see an upturn in queries to the Employment Team on Blue Monday/ or during January?

It is usually the position as far as this firm is concerned, that we see an upturn in relation to Employment Law in the month of January, however this year there has actually been a decline at CJCH.

What sort of issues is the employment team contacted about? 

At this time of year, there are the inevitable enquiries about incidents arising out of Christmas Parties.  From the employer’s perspective, we have instructions regarding the implementation of disciplinary procedures, enquiries from new start-ups and unfortunately in this present uncertain economic climate, queries regarding redundancies and procedures that have to be followed.

Regarding the issue of Blue Monday and employees it may very well be the position, that if and when an employee decides to leave, we may have enquiries both from the employer and the employee regarding the possible impact of post-employment agreements.

What is the most common problem people contact your team regarding?

The Employment Team in CJCH, undertakes a broad spectrum of work involving both contentious and non-contentious Employment Law matters.  We are frequently instructed to prepare company handbooks, advice on disciplinary and grievance procedures and all aspects of family friendly policies.

On the contentious side of matters, the introduction of Section 111(a) Protected Conversations, means that we are frequently asked to try and negotiate exit packages for employees by both the employee and the employer.  In addition, of course, we are always instructed to act on matters involving unfair dismissals, wrongful dismissal and areas of discrimination.

The increasing awareness of the Me Too campaign has led to an increase of enquiries from female employees who have suffered the indignity of unwarranted attention of a sexual nature. 

What are the options for someone who wanted to leave a job with immediate effect and not give notice?

Most responsible employers will have in place contracts of employments for their employees which will give a clear indication of what notice the employee is entitled to, whether or not it is contractual or statutory.  In addition, most contracts of employment will give a clear indication of what period of notice an employee is required to give the employer.

It is the position, that even when there is no formal contract of employment, the employer is under a statutory obligation to provide an employee with a written statement of the main terms and conditions of his/her employment within two calendar months of starting work.  This should also include the notice provisions.

If therefore, there is no contract of employment or for that matter a Section 1 Statement of Terms and Conditions, the Employment Rights Act lays down the minimum period of notice required from an employee, that is one week.

It may very well be the position, that an employee who wishes to leave a job with immediate effect can agree with his employer to waive the notice period.

If however the employee leaves his job without giving notice, and without the agreement of the employer, a number of situations may arise.

  • It may very well be the position, that post-termination restrictive covenants are in place and the employer may very well seek injunctive relief to prevent the employee starting employment with a new employer if, there is a risk that the post-termination restrictive covenants would be breached.
  • It may also be the position that the employer is concerned about the breach and can refuse to accept the employee’s repudiation and request that he/she sits out the notice period at home.
  • It is also possible for an employer to seek damages against an employee who leaves in breach of notice provisions if it can be shown a financial loss has arisen.  However, circumstances such as these are very rare, as quantifying loss is difficult.

Can someone leave during a probationary period and what would they need to consider?

Leaving during a probationary period, has very similar consequences as above.

The main difference of course, is that an employee who wishes to leave during a probationary period is usually in the position of finding out, that he is not suited or does not like the post he has taken.

There are very rarely any circumstances, where an employer would seek to take action in such circumstances, other than possibly where the employer has paid for the employee to attend training courses prior to commencement of his employment and/or during the probationary period.

In those circumstances, there may be a recoupment provision.  In addition, notwithstanding the fact that an employee is in a probationary period, he may have gained confidential information which again may be subject to post-termination restrictive covenants.

What if a staff member is on Maternity Leave? What would they need to do to change jobs?

If a member of staff is on Maternity Leave, and wishes to change jobs, then the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations provide that the female employee is bound by the contractual obligation to give notice to terminate her employment.

So a woman on Maternity Leave who decides not to return to work must advise her employer before the end of her leave period, either by a notice period which is contained in a Contract of Employment, or by the Statutory Minimum of one week under Section 86 of the ERA.

What industries do you generally get the most queries of this nature from? 

Most enquiries at this time of the year are generated from the care industry, retail, health care and security industries.

What is your top tip to anyone who might be spurred on to change jobs from Blue Monday?

Any Employee who is minded to change jobs under the Blue Monday syndrome, should consider a number of issues.

Firstly, it may very well be the position that they have more than two years continuity of service.  To leave therefore, would mean starting again and losing all employment rights that have been gained through having two years continuity of service.

In addition, any employee minded to leave and change jobs must also be acutely aware of any contractual provisions relating to the dissemination of confidential information, and of course post-termination restrictive covenants.

If the situation has arisen where the employee for some reason has become dissatisfied with his/her role, then possibly speaking to the HR Department or a line manager to discuss areas of dissatisfaction may resolve a problem.

CJCH Solicitors’ employment team is highly experienced and skilled in all aspects of employment law and the provision of HR legal services.

It supports a wide range of employers from SMEs to household name companies, universities and public sector organisations.

Access to Justice: Supreme court rules to quash Employment Tribunal fees

The Supreme Court has handed down a game changing judgement relating to Employment Law. Seven Supreme Court Justices agreed, in the case of Unison v Lord Chancellor, that the Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal Fee Order 2013 prevented access to justice and furthermore was considered unlawful.

The result of this judgement is that fees structure for Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunals has now been removed.

Nigel Daniel, CJCH Employment Law and HR Services Lead had this to say on the developments:

The implications of this decision are numerous. When the fee structure was in place (As of today, it no longer is), employers had a certain protection from vexatious claimants, who may very well have filed a claim hoping for an economic settlement, when in reality the claim may have had no prospect of success whatsoever.

CJCH represents both employers and employees in various matters, and we would predict that this development will result in a sharp increase in new instructions.

Immediately after the introduction of fees, claims to the Employment Tribunal dropped by 79%, so we would expect that trend will see an immediate reversal.

Claimants, who are at their most vulnerable, after losing their job, no longer have to worry about finding £1200 (estimated) to actually get a case to the Tribunal. I still feel, however, that we have a duty to advise responsibly, and inform possible claimants of potential costs penalties if that claimant persists in bringing a vexatious, or malicious case.

Our Commercial Law Lead, Gareth Thompson, considers the point of view of employers:

Since the run up to Brexit and its aftermath, the current government appears to have taken a semi-detached approach to their relationship with business and employers.  Following the election and its now precarious hold on power in parliament, it seems increasingly desperate to demonstrate its ‘People’ friendly credentials.

The announcement that employment tribunals are going to abandon the requirement for fees to start claims might be seen as the latest evidence of this.  The last upwards hike in fees slashed all new employee claims to tribunals by nearly 80%, almost overnight.  The removal of any fees promises to usher in a tsunami like wave of fresh claims.  From the employee’s perspective, this may be perceived as good news and the employment marketplace as a new happy hunting ground.

From an employer’s perspective, it may provoke a collective groan of despair and knee jerk defensive responses.  All may agree that prevention of claims is better than cure.  Some reactive employers may be tempted to simply look even harder than they otherwise have done at anyone employed by them for less than two years and pro-actively purge the ranks of anyone likely to prove problematic in the longer term.

However other employers will sensibly take a more enlightened approach.  They will look hard and long at their recruitment processes to ensure that they take on the right people for them in the first place.  They will also review their training and appraisal policies to ensure they become meaningful and valuable personal development tools instead of internal compliance-driven tick-box exercises.  They might consider giving them representation on management boards or simply have regular meetings to share knowledge and experience, air any issues and invite constructive suggestions for improvement.  They might also want to consider imaginative reward schemes to incentivise everyone employed by them and give them a real vested interest in the success of the business.

Businesses don’t need to introduce truly radical human resource management to prevent negative confrontation.  All that is required to create a positive and productive working environment is good management practice and a healthy dose of common sense. Traditional hierarchies and old fashioned practices should be the first thing to be axed if any organisation is serious about success and growth.  Conversely, an inclusive and all-embracing approach to their workforce should be the first thing to be introduced as the best defence against negative and expensive grievances and claims.

 

Gender Pay Gap: Corporations will soon be legally made to publish the pay gap between male and female employees

Publishing the pay gap between male and female employees will soon be a legal requirement
Our Government will soon be putting into place legislation that seeks to ensure women aren’t paid less than men in the workplace.

The move to tackle pay inequality follows evidence that suggests that while women are better performing academically, once they reach the workforce, this isn’t reflected in their pay packets.

 

Current figures suggest that 63.6% of girls achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C compared to 54.2% of boys, and that 57% is the proportion of first degree graduates that are women.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, which set out the detail of the gender pay gap reporting duty, will come into force on 6 April 2017.

This will mean employers with 250 or more employees will be required to publish details of their gender Pay gap and gender Bonus gap. Employers will have 12 months in which to publish the information, meaning that first publication will be required no later than 4 April 2018.

The pay information must be based on data from a snapshot date of 5 April every year, beginning with 5 April 2017.

The Bonus information must be based on the preceding 12-month period, beginning with the 12 months leading up to 5th April 2017. i.e. 5th April 2016.
Under the draft Regulations, employers will be required to publish:
* the difference in mean pay between male and female employees;
* the difference in median pay between male and female employees;
* the difference in mean bonus pay between male and female employees;
* the difference in median bonus pay between male and female employees;
* the proportions of male and female employees who were paid bonus pay; and
* the proportions of male and female employees in each quartile of their pay distribution.

It has been estimated that further bridging the UK gender gap in work has the potential to create an extra £150 billion on top of business as-usual GDP forecasts in 2025.