Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Restrictions on Zero Hours Contracts

Prohibition on Exclusivity Clauses Finally Becomes Law

We reported in July 2014 on the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which, amongst other things, would make unenforceable any clause in a zero hours contract which prohibits the employee from doing work for anyone else, or where they have to obtain permission from their employer to do so.  This finally become law on 26th May.

Anti-avoidance measures are still to be introduced to try to stop employers getting around this ban. These measures will be coming out in the near future, but further details of them are to follow.  So far it appears that the ban on exclusivity clauses will apply also to contracts which guarantee only a limited weekly income - the threshold level of income has not yet been set, however. Also workers on zero hours contracts (or those earning below the weekly income threshold) will be protected from suffering a detriment on the grounds that they sought additional work elsewhere.  If they do suffer a detriment, they will be able to bring complaints to an employment tribunal.

We will let you know when these measures become law.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sexual Orientation v Religious Belief Discrimination

Baker guilty of direct discrimination over "Gay Cake"

Many of you will have heard of the recent case in Northern Ireland of a baker refusing to make a cake that carried a message in support of same sex marriage.  Whilst this is a case relating to the provision of goods and services, the key themes apply also to the field of employment law.

Ashers Bakery is run by a husband and wife team, the McArthurs, who hold very strong christian beliefs.  They decided not to accept the order for the cake because they felt that using their skills to produce the cake conflicted fundamentally with their beliefs. They were against same-sex marriage because, as Mrs McArthur stated, they believed that "the only divinely ordained sexual relationship is that between a man and a woman with the bonds of matrimony...Marriage is also to be between a man and a woman." 

The Court found that this amounted to direct discrimination against the plaintiff, Gareth Lee. They refused to provide the service to Mr Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation. They were not able to rely on their own religious belief as mitigation.

This case adds to a mounting number which bring religious belief and sexual orientation discrimination into apparent conflict. At the end of the day, it is always going to be unlawful to discriminate against someone directly because of their sexual orientation or because of their religious belief. And it is unlikely that any defence will get very far if it is to say that the discrimination was justified because of your own religious belief (or sexual orientation).