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Changes to employment laws will impact all UK businesses

The latest changes to employment law will affect all UK businesses, but human resource specialists say that the new rules are so diverse that many small firms may be unaware of their potential impact. The broad range of new legislation includes amendments to employees' maternity rights and pay and revisions to the laws encompassing discrimination and employment tribunals.

The new laws, which are to take effect 6 April, make rate changes to statutory adoption payments, maternity, ordinary and added paternity payments. In addition, any grievances must be filed with and reviewed the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service before the claim is taken to a tribunal. The ACAS will then have one month try to negotiate a settlement between both parties before it is taken before a panel.

Religious rights in the workplace

In a recent lecture, a senior judge said that the United Kingdom should be more accommodating to traditional Christian beliefs in law. The Supreme Court's deputy president voiced doubts that the current approach to discrimination claims, a 'hard line" attitude aligned with EU laws, could be sustained over time. She also said that the UK was 'less respectful" towards religious opinions during a lecture given at Yale Law School in the U.S.

At the lecture, the judge told the audience that there should be accommodations for those who hold traditional Christian beliefs. The judge mentioned two Christian faith couples who owned bed and breakfast businesses who refused to rent a double room to homosexual couples, as well as three individuals who took their claims of religious discrimination to the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights.

NHS employees face further below-inflation pay rises

Londoners who work for the National Health Service know that the government has announced that it will not give the expected 1 percent annual pay rise to all NHS employees. Now, unions are accusing the government of ignoring an independent report by the Pay Review Body. The report recommended a 1 percent annual increase for NHS employees, but the coalition revealed that only some workers would be in receipt of the pay rise, with more than 60 percent of staff receiving only their contractually agreed increment, 70 percent of which were nurses and midwives.

The Royal College of Nursing's general secretary said that nurses had accepted that efficiency savings were necessary but that they had now been asked to make sacrifices for others' mistakes for four years. He agreed with the unions that this showed "contempt" for all but the highest echelons. A GMB representative warned that blocking the recommended pay rise would be taken personally by NHS workers.

Litigation moves to UK in order to consolidate proceedings

Two firms involved in ongoing dispute over a business deal have agreed to drop U.S.-based action in favour of consolidating the case in the U.K. The litigation concerns the sale of EMI Group Ltd. in 2007. Reports say the buyer, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., claims it was fooled into overpaying.

The seller, Citigroup Inc., successfully defended their actions in a 2010 case, but a Manhattan appeals court in 2013 overturned the ruling. The appeals court found that the original case judge had made a mistake when briefing the jury, leading to a planned retrial in New York. Both Citigroup and Terra Firma have now agreed to consolidate the U.S. proceedings with the ongoing case in the U.K., suggesting that English law applied to the dispute. The case was withdrawn from New York courts March 7.

Council agrees to end pay dispute in settlement

South Lanarkshire Council has ended a drawn out dispute with over 3,000 past and present female employees. The women began litigation, claiming that male employees in comparable positions were paid more, and they have finally been offered a settlement deal. Reports suggest that the details of the deal will remain confidential.

The council had tried to prevent a freedom of information submission regarding pay scales but were rebuffed by the Supreme Court, and a 2012 tribunal decided that a number of its evaluations had not been in compliance with the Equal Pay Act. The financial executive director for the authority said that it had 'long been committed to equality of pay" and a council leader said that the administration's actions had all been the result of legal advice received throughout the proceedings. He also said that he was pleased at the successful conclusion of the talks.

Manager sacked in email calls press conference

A football manager has organised a press conference to discuss his annoyance with his former employers after he was sacked by email. The manager had previously released a statement to the media through the League Managers Association, detailing his intention to seek legal recourse for unfair dismissal.

The man spoke to assorted media representatives, telling them that questions had been raised about his coaching strategy in January, followed by a reiteration of concern after the team was later beaten by West Ham. The manager had a meeting with the South Wales club boss and told reporters that he thought the matter had been resolved, only to receive an email later in the day that said that his contract had been breached and his employment was terminated in a process the manager described as 'silly."

Popular TV show loses court battle

A British business owner has won a court battle against 21st Century Fox Corporation after the courts agreed that the TV show 'Glee" was guilty of trademark infringement. The owner of a number of British music and comedy venues trademarked the Glee Club name in 1999 and the internationally broadcast TV series, 'Glee," began airing in 2009. The outcome of the litigation may lead to the removal of all series merchandise and DVDs from the UK's high streets as well as the cancellation of all UK broadcasts and downloads.

The businessman fought for three years against Fox, facing threats of personal asset loss by the corporation, before a High Court judge ruled that the corporation had infringed upon the venues' trademark. The leading solicitor for the man said that Fox had refused to recognise that its use of the name 'Glee" may have caused harm to the pre-existing brand and business. The judge said that the TV show could not continue to use the name in accordance with honest practices and noted that some potential customers will have been dissuaded from using a venue due to supposed personal associations with the name of the show.

GP fears NHS retaliation for protecting his patients

A doctor who has chosen to opt out of a new NHS data-sharing scheme fears that he will be forced from his practice due to what he calls blatant bullying. The GP has said that he will withhold his patients' medical records automatically unless they choose to opt in to the scheme, citing fears that the public has not been adequately informed about the ramifications of disclosure.

The Oxford-based GP has been threatened with punishment for breach of contract, which he says amounts to retaliation for whistleblowing. The new scheme is intended to expand an existing database that uses information from hospitals to identify health trends and NHS performance. It is hoped that by broadening the scope of the data source, it will improve patient care and provide more accurate information about medical needs. There are fears, however, that this information would be more attractive to hackers, made public or sold to third parties that would use the data to target the ill and profit from their conditions.

Personal assistant's claim for constructive dismissal upheld

An architect's personal assistant has won her claim against her former employer after an employment tribunal ruled his behaviour 'bizarre". The woman had worked for the architect for 7 years before ending her employment after his interest in her clothing and a written declaration of personal affection made her uncomfortable. Her claims of sexual harassment, victimisation, sex discrimination and constructive dismissal were upheld by the panel.

The tribunal heard that, three years after she began working for the architect, he had requested that she dress in a more professional manner. The claim also suggested that the man had a strong preference for skirts and had expressed opinions on their length. He also commented upon the denier of her tights, asking that she wear skin-tone colours rather than darker shades. It was also suggested that the man expected the woman to model the new clothing for him. The woman told the panel that, despite feeling uncomfortable with his interest, she made no complaint at the time.

Orangeman's discrimination claim unsuccessful

An employment tribunal dismissed claims that photographs of a charity football match posted on a Department of Social Development intranet site created "an intimidating, hostile (and) offensive workplace environment" on Jan. 20. The pictures were of players wearing GAA kit and were published with a commentary describing the Casement Park stadium as "hallowed ground".

The complainant objected to both the photograph and the phrase "hallowed ground" because two soldiers were murdered nearby in 1988. The discrimination claims were dismissed by the panel who said that reasonable individual would not consider the photographs to be undignified. It also cast doubt on the claimant's declaration that he would have raised a similar complaint about the image of staff in Glentoran regalia, also on the site, if he had seen it.

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