Top five cases of 2019

2019 has been a turbulent year for employment law. Here, Ben McCarthy, employment law writer at Croner-i summarises the top five cases from this year and their outcomes.

1. Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd

Court: Court of Appeal

Date: March 2019

The facts: In his role, the claimant was required to continuously monitor trains during eight-hour shifts. He was too busy to take a continuous break of 20 minutes, though he was able to take shorter breaks. He argued that he was not being permitted his right to a continuous 20-minute rest break under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).

Outcome: The court explained that, in situations where employers cannot provide a continuous rest break, they can instead offer shorter breaks that total 20 minutes as “compensatory rest”. However, these need to demonstrate an “equivalent” period of rest. This decision particularly affects organisations requiring the need for continuity of service, such as care, security or utility services.

2. CC of Leicestershire Police v Hextall and Ali v Capita Customer Management

Court: Court of Appeal

Date: May 2019

The facts: In a joint appeal, the court considered whether offering enhanced maternity pay for female employees on maternity leave, but not offering the same for male employees on shared parental leave, was discrimination.

Outcome: Ultimately, the court ruled that this was not discrimination as women on maternity leave are in “materially different circumstances”.

3. East of England Ambulance Trust v Flowers

Court: Court of Appeal

Date: June 2019

The facts: The claimants in this case argued that all hours they worked as overtime should be taken into account when calculating their holiday pay. This included non-guaranteed overtime such as shift overruns in an emergency that they had to work, and voluntary overtime that they were not required to work.

Outcome: Ultimately, it was held that voluntary overtime, as well as non-guaranteed overtime, should be included in holiday pay calculations if it is “sufficiently regular and settled”.

4. Harpur Trust Ltd v Brazel

Court: Court of Appeal

Date: August 2019

The facts: A “part-year worker”, ie someone who is on a permanent contract of employment but only works for part of the year, argued that how her paid holiday allowance was being calculated was incorrect.

Outcome: The court agreed. It explained that part-year workers continue to accrue holidays even when they are not working, meaning that their entitlement to paid holidays should not be pro-rated down in comparison to full-time workers. Part-year workers are actually entitled to 5.6 weeks of holiday pay per leave year as a minimum. Therefore, their pay should be calculated by averaging how much they have worked over the previous 12 weeks. The employee’s holiday pay, which previously had been calculated at 12.07% of her overall earnings, actually worked out at 17.5% of this figure.

5. Royal Mail Group Ltd v Jhuti

Court: Supreme Court

Date: December 2019

The facts: The claimant was dismissed after she had been forced to withdraw accusations that amounted to protected disclosures (“whistleblowing”). The decision to dismiss her had been influenced by her former team leader. They’d wrongfully informed the decision maker that the employee had been incorrect in making the previous accusations.

Outcome: The court ruled that, if the real reason for a dismissal is hidden behind an “invested reason” which, in this case, was the fact that the employee had made protected disclosures and not her performance, it is the real reason that will be taken into account by tribunals. However, this reason will need to come from someone with seniority over the claimant.

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