A salutary reminder re CVs

29 01 2009

A report in The Guardian earlier this week highlighted again the risk to employees in lying or covering up information on job application forms.  Cheltenham Borough Council is suing its former managing director, Christine Laird, in the High Court because she allegedly failed to tell them that she had a history of depression when she took the job.  In this instance Ms Laird disputes her liability and is fighting the claim.   

Apparently she joined the council in 2002 and went on sick leave in June 2004, before leaving the following year.  The Council is suing for the cost of cover for her whilst she was off sick, the cost of her ill-health pension and legal costs from some other (unnamed) legal proceedings.  According to The Guardian these costs amount to £1mn, a huge sum. 

The claim is brought on the basis of her alleged “fraudulent or negligent misrepresentation”.  Claims for misrepresentation are usually quite difficult to prove, especially where the alleged comments were made orally.  The basis for a misrepresentation claim is that the comment(s) induced the other party to enter into a contract and, as a result of that reliance, they suffered loss.  The Council will, presumably, be arguing that if she had told them she suffered from depression at the job interview or when completing the medical questionnaire they would not have employed her and hence they have suffered loss in having to pay her a costly ill health pension.  It will be interesting to see if it is argued by Ms Laird’s lawyers that such an approach would have constituted disability discrimination. 

The facts of that case (such as they have been published) make interesting reading and I will await the outcome with interest.  However, regardless of whether the Council succeeds or not, it is a salutary reminder to all job seekers to be very careful when completing c.vs or job application forms.  This particular case is exceptional.  In most cases an employer won’t bother suing in the High Court for misrepresentation if it discovers the employee to have been lying; it will just sack the employee for breach of trust and confidence.   That is what happened to an NHS director a few weeks ago who was found tpo have lied on his c.v about his professional qualifications – he claimed he had a PhD and Msc in Psychology, whereas he only had a BSc. In fact not only was he dismissed but he ended up in jail for fraud.

This article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 2nd February.





Holidays and Long Term Sick Leave

23 01 2009

There was reported this week a case from the European Court of Justice that will have employers and Europhobes going mad.  A case called Ainsworth v HMRC (which was actually five conjoined cases) made its way through the English courts to the House of Lords, who referred it to the ECJ.  The case (which has now changed its name to Stringer v HMRC, why I don’t know) centres on an interpretation of the Working Time Regulation and the difficult question of whether a person on long term sick leave accrues holiday (and thus the right o be paid for holiday) whilst off sick.  In all these cases the employees had used up all their entitlement to sick pay.

 

The answer handed down by the ECJ is fairly indigestible, but the answer is simple: yes.  In other words a person is on long term sick leave and they are no longer receiving sick pay, but their employment has not been terminated by the employer, they are entitled to be paid four weeks’ holiday pay when they return to work, or to be paid it in lieu when their employment terminates.  If the sick leave lasts longer than one year, the employee’s right to receive the holiday pay is preserved.  The case will now go back to the House of Lords who will have to adopt it.  Undoubtedly many employers, especially those of a Europhobe disposition, will be coughing and spluttering over this, especially at an otherwise very difficult time for most companies.  However, it does provide a good answer to the question not-quite-posed by Monty Python “what did Europe ever do for us?”

 

And now for something completely different: February 1st sees the annual uprating in compensation limits at Employment Tribunals taking effect, where the termination of employment (or other event giving rise to a claim) occurs.  The limit on a week’s pay for statutory redundancy pay or basic award will increase from £330 to £350 per week and the maximum compensatory award that an Employment Tribunal can make increases to £66,200.  

This article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspaper week commencing 26th January





Blogging

15 01 2009

 

This is a copy of an article I wrote for the Docklands and Peninsula newspaper – unedited.  It will appear in the week commencing Jan 19th.

 

As Eagle eyed readers may have noticed, I have been writing a blog since last September – called Jobsworth – devoted to legal matters, particularly employment law.  Over time the number of hits has increased and, slowly but surely, a readership is building up.  Although blogging has been around for a few years now, it seems to be only recently that it has increased in popularity and the number of blogs has increased enormously. The variety of subjects is amazing, and there is an ever growing number of blogs devoted to legal matters.  Partly this is due to the ease with which one can set up a blog using ready-made software like Blogger or WordPress, and because writing a blog is supposed to assist in achieving the Holy Grail of getting a high page ranking for your website on Google (I sometimes have a nightmare where in 50 years time there will be only two institutions left in the world – Tesco and Google).  For many people it is a good opportunity to publish their own ramblings and it brings to mind the old adage that everyone has a book inside them waiting to be written, whether it should be published is another matter.

 

Hopefully, my effort doesn’t come into the latter category; I try to concentrate on topical matters in UK employment law and I have been writing a lot about redundancy just recently.  The aim is to be informative and “sober”, if that doesn’t sound too pompous.  Many people clearly want to access legal information without approaching a solicitor and incurring legal fees and blogs are good at providing that information.  Where they fall down is that it is not possible to provide tailored legal advice to all readers: if you have a particular legal query or concern there is no substitute for taking legal advice.  However, if you fancy some gossip or satirical comment, something more salacious, or just downright rude, that is catered for too amongst the various law blogs in the UK and the US/Canada.  That is the best aspect of blogging that I have found, the sheer diversity and freedom that it provides.    





Jobsworth meets Charon QC

11 01 2009

 I was delighted to be invited by Charon QC to be interviewed for his weekly podcast yesterday.  For those who haven’t come across his blog I strongly recommend a visit to it; it is to be found at the top of my blogroll on the right hand side of the page. It is a veritable treasure trove of news and comment on  law and politics, amongst other topics and is satirical in nature.  Check out the very amusing  “West London Man” for example.  There is also a huge number of links to other blogs.  It’s well worth a look – go to http://www.charonqc.wordpress.com.   

 

Charon QC also produces Insite law magazine – a more serious website containing legal news and podcasts.  My interview can be found at http://www.insitelawmagazine.com/charonpodcast85.mp3 .  We discussed the credit crunch and the effect it is having on redundancies in the City.  There is a discussion on consultation and redundancy packages.  Please click on the above link to go directly to the podcast, or go via the Charon QC blog if you want to see a mugshot of me (not recommended!) or to look at the blog (most recommended).

This was the first podcast that I have done and it has got me thinking that I might try and integrate a podcast into this blog.  Finding the time and the subjects to do it is a fairly massive task and I take my bobble hat (very necessary in this weather if you are as follically challenged as I am) off to Charon QC for the sheer amount of material that he produces.    Videoblogs are the next big thing, I understand, but I have misgivings: I find it strange listening to my own voice, let alone seeing myself on video.





What is the cost of redundancy?

8 01 2009

According to research published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development the answer is approximately £16,000 per person.  They reached this figure by using a complex formula where the cost of redundancy = (n x R) + (X x H) + (X + T) + ny(H + T) + Wz(P – n).  There isn’t space here to list all the individual factors, but they include the obvious costs, such as size of redundancy payments, number of people made redundant, hiring and training costs as well as perhaps less obvious ones such as the reduction in efficiency caused by low morale of remaining workers. The one costs that doesn’t seem to be factored in is management and HR time involved in putting together and executing redundancy programmes.  Judging by some of the clients I am seeing at the moment, there are plenty of employers out there making  a hash of cutting back their workforces.  For the full press release go to www.cipd.co.uk.

The main thrust of the research is to point out that redundancy can be a short term solution and one that has additional hidden costs that may not be clearly quantifiable.  The authors are pointing out, fairly sensibly it seems to me, that redundancy programmes are not the cure all for cutting costs that they might seem.   What is certainly not quantifiable is the personal cost of redundancy, not just to the employees involved but to their families as well.  There is the stress of wondering how the mortgage will be paid (although at least interest rates are not at the levels they reached during the last recession in the early 90s) and the loss of self-esteem.  I’d be interested to see some research that tries to quantify all these costs  to the individual.  Please let me know if you know of any.

 

This article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 12th January 2009





Plough Monday

6 01 2009

Jobsworth is back from its short Festive break, feeling slightly less stressed,  albeit somewhat lighter following a nasty gastric bug.  The New Year stretches interminably away into the future and the current economic climate doesn’t look like improving anytime soon.  Whilst I’m getting back to speed, it is a good chance to remember the long-forgotten ritual of Plough Monday, which was celebrated from pre-industrial until Victorian times on the first Monday after Epiphany – which is January 5th this year.

 

In its earliest Pagan form it involved farm labourers going from door to door pulling a plough behind them and demanding gifts (usually food or ale) from the householder in order to bring good luck to the crops.  If they were refused they would plough up the front path, so it was really an early form of “Trick or Treating”. As industrialisation gathered pace it transformed itself from an agricultural ritual into a primarily urban one and the plough was replaced by gangs of youths knocking on doors in cities demanding beer. Local newspapers in this period often contain stories of disturbances, some quite serious.   Inevitably the newly developing police forces soon stamped down on such unruly behaviour and the whole tradition died out. 

 

What’s this got to do with Employment Law?  Absolutely nothing.  Normal service will be resumed shortly.

 

A version of this article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 6th January 2009





Feel free to comment

5 01 2009

Please do feel free to leave comments here – feedback is always useful.  What I would like to happen, if possible, is for people to write about their  experiences with employment law issues or, indeed, employment lawyers for that matter.  I’m not seeking to give individual advice via this blog but it would be great to create a “community” where people can swap stories from the “coal face”.    If in doubt don’t put names or identifying remarks in and please don’t libel anyone!

Looking forward to hearing from you.