It’s been a colourful week for ukemplaw. A tale of Apprentices, sharks and headmasters being sacked for wearing Hawaiian shirts and pink socks. There’s also a good deal of symmetry, with both cases below involving husband and wife teams dismissed for alleged misconduct, and both couples coming from Wales.
On more serious matters, gagging clauses in NHS compromise agreements have been abolished and the new, lighter, thinner, smarter etc Tribunal rules due to come into force next month, have now been been delayed until the summer, rather than the week after next.
First though , let’s escape the stress and strain of the week and go Down Under. That’s what Paul Marshallsea did whilst on sick leave from his job with the Pant & Dowlais Boys and Girls Club. He was apparently suffering from a work related stress illness and went on holiday with his wife to Australia. Whilst on the beach (blazing sun, swimwear, BBQ – remember that sort of weather?) he “wrestled a shark” away from a group of children who were paddling nearby. It wasn’t a Great White, but it would still have given him a nasty bite had the manoeuvre gone wrong. His moment of heroism was recorded on a phone and quickly came to wider attention and brought him a degree of fame. Click here for the BBC report on the story.
Sadly it also brought him (and his wife who was also an employee at the same club and also on sick leave as well) a P45 because his employers back in a less sunny and hot Wales decided to dismiss him, presumably on the basis that he didn’t look very unwell. Boo hiss!
What made the case even more memorable was Mr Marshallsea’s rather doleful observation that “there’s not much call for shark wrestlers in Merthyr Tydfil”, which is undoubtedly something he will reflect on in the dole queue, or the ET. My guess is that litigation will follow because the employer seems to have pulled the trigger without any sort of investigatory or disciplinary process being followed. Whilst the facts are somewhat colourful and gave rise to plenty of mirth on Twitter, it doesn’t preclude the need for a fair disciplinary process to be followed. He was on sick leave because of stress, not because, for example, he was supposedly confined to a wheelchair or suffering from a back injury so that he couldn’t bend down.
Another literally even more colourful case appeared in The Times this week, concerning a headmaster, also in Wales, who succeeded with his claim to an Employment Tribunal after being sacked by the school for wearing a Hawaiian shirt and pink socks in class. He also had been “fraternising” with students on Facebook, apparently in breach of the school social media policy he had introduced. Unfortunately the full story is behind the pay wall at The Times and I’m too mean to pay for a subscription. The Telegraph had a fuller description which gives a more sober explanation of events and reveals that Mr Routledge’s partner was also dismissed at the same time. They won their case because of the failure of the school Trustees to follow a fair disciplinary process. Thankfully, this case is not is authority for saying that headmasters can wear Hawaiian shirts and pink socks, because wearing an Hawaiian shirt with pink socks sounds like more than adequate justification for summary execution, let alone dismissal.
Lord Sugar and The Apprentice hit the headlines with Stella English’s claim for unfair dismissal reaching a final hearing. I covered it earlier this week. Judgment has been reserved
Generations of schoolchildren have been used to coming up with creative excuses for not doing their homework, the dog ate it, I lost it, dropped it down a well etc etc. The Government hasn’t come up with any reason for delaying the new rules for ET procedure, other than not having finished the job. Usually new Regulations are introduced in April and October, but the real meat of the reforms will come into force this summer. The rules will be produced by May.
Xpert Hr produced a very useful timetable for all the forthcoming changes for this year and next. In addition to the new procedural rules this summer (there is no more specific date yet) the headline changes brought in will be;
- compromise agreements replaced by settlement agreements
- Tribunal fees will be introduced
- Compensatory awards for unfair dismissal will be reduced to 12 months pay where less than the overall cap
Confidentiality clauses in NHS compromise agreements returned to the news as well this week. The government has banned them with immediate effect. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary said;
“We are just going to ban them (gagging clauses). All these compromise agreements have to be approved by the Department for Health and the Treasury.We are now saying we won’t approve any with a confidentiality clause that prevents people from speaking out about patient safety or patient care. We will make sure there is a specific clause in them saying that nothing in them can prevent people speaking out on issues such as patient care.”
Just how this will work remains to be seen – is the DoH really going to vet every compromise agreement that arises in the NHS, the largest employer in Europe, in these circumstances and if it is to do so, how long will it now take to resolve disputes in these cases? According to The Guardian NHS staff will gain a legal right to talk about issues of patient safety issues and that must be welcome.
Right that’s it for now. Have a good weekend.