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It’s well known that the right to claim unfair dismissal is only available to employees who have been in post for at least one year (or two years in the case of those who started work on or after 6 April this year). This means that, with some exceptions, employers can dismiss for pretty much any reason in that first year without having to worry about an unfair dismissal claim. These exceptions arise where this ‘qualifying period’ is waived under S.108 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This includes cases where the employee has been dismissed for asserting various statutory rights, such as those under the Working Time Regulations 1998. The existence of these exceptions indicates the Government’s acceptance that certain employment rights require strong protection, and that it would be an abuse if employers could dismiss with impunity for those reasons in the first year. More

How should we define the ‘public interest’? It’s a phrase that’s come up several times during the Leveson inquiry, being the factor that tips the balance towards the press’s right to publish and away from an individual’s right to privacy, but it’s not something that’s very easily defined. Identifying a public interest issue is perhaps best summed up by that famous phrase from US jurisprudence, ‘I know it when I see it’. This vagueness is perhaps worrying, because the definition of ‘public interest’ is about to take on some importance in an employment law context. More

Human rights and employment law have much in common. Both could be described as growth areas for litigation over the past ten years or so. Both make easy targets for politicians and pundits looking for a scapegoat. And both are reportedly on the Government’s agenda for reform, a fact not unrelated to the previous point. Some recent human rights at work cases illustrate the overlap between the two subjects in the workplace. More

Every profession has a stock response to any question it can’t answer. A phrase that sounds thoughtful, and is vague enough to be true, but doesn’t commit the sayer to anything. For a doctor, it might be ‘it’s probably a viral infection’; or for an evasive priest, ‘that would be an ecumenical matter’. For the employment lawyer, the phrase ‘it all depends on the contract’ passes muster in most situations. But that might have to change, as two Supreme Court decisions in the last year suggest that the employment contract is becoming less and less important. More

It’s become a bit of a cliché in legal commentary to say, of a particular issue, that the law is in a state of confusion, and that clarification from a higher court is much needed. Well, this blog considers the avoidance of cliché a cliché, and unabashedly resorts to truism, platitude or chestnut as it sees fit. The EAT’s recent decision on the holiday pay rights of employees on long-term sick leave leaves the law in a state of confusion. Clarification from a higher court is much needed. More

When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. When is a horse not a horse? When it turns into a field. And when is a dismissal not a dismissal? When it’s vitiated by special circumstances. Not a classic perhaps, but worth knowing, especially when such circumstances can save an employer from a finding of unfair dismissal. However, as the Court of Appeal has recently shown, the circumstances need to be very special indeed. More

With average pay increases falling well behind inflation, and (dare I say it) Christmas heaving into view, it wouldn’t be surprising if the number of workers taking second jobs were to rise. Many employers permit moonlighting so long as it doesn’t conflict with employees’ duties and loyalties. But these situations can prove an extra job of work for the employer as much as for the employee. More

In an old episode of The Simpsons, Homer tries to set up in business selling sugar, neglecting his job at the nuclear power plant in the process. When his boss phones to find out where he is, he tells Homer that if he doesn’t report for work on Friday, he needn’t bother turning up on Monday. ‘Woo hoo!’, shouts Homer. ‘Four-day weekend!’ Homer Simpson is not, of course, noted for his grasp of the subtleties of language. But the legal implications of an ambiguous dismissal have taxed brighter minds than his. More

In this supposedly classless age, one’s position in society should have no effect on one’s rights and responsibilities in the eyes of the law. However, this is not quite true in the employment realm, which remains Mrs Bennet-like in its fixation on status. Two recent decisions considering whether claimants had the status of ‘employee’, ‘worker’ or neither have significant implications. More

Mention the word ‘equity’ in the presence of a lawyer and you may catch their eyes glazing over, as they fear the conversation is about to turn to the law of trusts. But equity has a role to play in that much more cutting-edge branch of law, employment. A recent case in the EAT put this role under the spotlight, and it may have some relevance to the fallout from the demise of the News of the World. More

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