A woman, who had a baby using a surrogate mother, is to take the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to the High Court in her fight to get the maternity pay she feels she is owed. Should surrogates get the same rights as other mums?
The woman says her human rights have been breached because, although she did not give birth to her child, she believes she should be entitled to paid leave to look after him. She said that she “feels judged” for not having the ability to give birth herself. The company she works for offered her 52 weeks unpaid leave and are reported to have said they are not legally required to give her paid leave or time off because she did not give birth herself.
Her case comes at the same time as Surrogacy UK mounts a legal challenge for a judicial review into regulations stopping maternity pay for those women who use surrogates. The current rules permit mothers in her situation to only have 13 weeks parental leave unpaid, and this is only granted when the mother and her husband have a parental order formally transferring the legal responsibility and legal rights from the birth mother to themselves.
Is it fair that some women, who are incapable of having children, but who have them using a surrogate, are paid less than women who give birth naturally? Let me know what you think.
The figures, for England and Wales, which are based on the 2011 census, show a 30% rise in the number of people reaching the age of 65, meaning that 169,000 more people this year are reaching retirement age compared to 2011, which is the highest ever number of 65-year-olds in history. Though the numbers are expected to fall back slightly, 3.3m people are predicted to reach that age within the next five years.
The rapid rise in those drawing their pension is put down to the baby boom at the end of the Second World War, with the mass demobilisation of servicemen, transforming family life in the UK.
As well as living longer, more of course are healthier and capable of contributing to society, which leads into the debate about the retirement age which is an ongoing issue. Though many are opposed to the raising of the retirement age, on the basis of this evidence it seems an inevitability.
Will a new decision from the Supreme Court which will extend the time in which workers can bring equal pay claims from six months to six years , open the way for thousands more claims to be brought in other areas as some claim?
The case has seen about 170 former female workers from Birmingham city council claim compensation after alleging they did not receive the same benefits and payments as men doing the same level of work and therefore the council breached equal pay law. The council tried to block the claims, saying they should have been made in front of an employment tribunal which has a six-month time limit, but the employees succeeded in claiming they should be heard in a civil court which has a six-year limit.
Legal firms expect the ruling to have a significant impact on the City and it could lead to female employees more willing to bide their time and take equal pay claims to the high court. Ultimately it could make such claims more lucrative and worth pursuing by staff. Do you think it will have this effect? Let us know.
A former teacher, sacked for grabbing a pupil who had thrown a banana milkshake over him, fears he will never get another job. Is it another example of too much protection being given to children with teachers not able to discipline even if the child deserves it?
Robert Cox had been a teacher at Bemrose School in Derby but was sacked by governors after an incident in the school’s dining room. During a commotion between some of the pupils, Mr Cox told a 16-year-old boy to sit down, but was then verbally abused and the boy threw drink over him.
The teacher held the boy down in his seat, because he said he feared the child was going to throw his chair which he later did, though not at Mr Cox. Though neither the boy nor his parents complained after the incident, governors sacked the teacher after seeing the incident on CCTV, ruling that he had used excessive force and had escalated rather than calmed the situation.
Mr Cox told a tribunal hearing in Nottingham that he considered himself “unemployable” now and had twice attempted to commit suicide. He said he had acted within the guidelines to protect himself and other students but was penalised for doing so.
However the tribunal hearing also heard from the school who said that Mr Cox had “manhandled” the boy who had thrown the chair because he was frustrated at the way he was being treated by the teacher.
What’s your view of the incident? As we weren’t there it’s hard to say whether the teacher overreacted to the situation before him. The fact neither the boy nor his parents complained maybe suggests that Mr Cox has been harshly treated. What’s your view?
The business secretary Vince Cable is set to cut the maximum £72,000 compensation cap for unfair dismissal as part of a series of measures designed to encourage businesses to recruit more staff. Do you think it will work?
The Liberal Democrat believes the current maximum figure, which is only awarded in a tiny percentage of cases, may be reduced to be nearer to the level of the employee’s annual salary. The current average award in successful unfair dismissal cases is between £5,000 and £6,000 with only about 6% of cases seeing awards over £30,000.
However, the business secretary will not support moves to adopt compulsory no-fault dismissal, which was proposed by Adrian Beecroft in a government backed report and which had the support of many on the Conservative back benches. Instead Cable is thought likely to put his weight behind a voluntary scheme signed by both employer and employee, that would enable the staff member to leave the firm with a good reference as long as they waive the right to pursue an unfair dismissal claim at a tribunal.
Would you have liked the government to have gone further and taken on the Beecroft proposals or do you prefer the Lib Dem inspired “watered down” version? Are they too watered down as to be ineffective or will they have an impact on employment law?
Orla Phelan, who worked as a project engineer for the company, was the only female in her team and claimed there had been a “sexist and macho” culture at work. She told an employment tribunal that she was excluded from meetings and was the subject of “puerile and lewd” comments by the two men. She said that she subsequently suffered severe depression and was sacked when she refused to return to the team where she had suffered the harassment.
She is seeking damages of over £135,000 from Rolls Royce for lost earnings and injury to her feelings. She said that, though she raised grievances about two members of staff in particular, the company treated her complaint “with contempt” and she suffered “blatant victimisation” after lodging a claim with an employment tribunal while she still worked for the company.
Rolls Royce says that Miss Phelan’s claims of harassment, sex discrimination and unfair dismissal are groundless and that it will vigorously defence the case, which continues.
A woman who was wrongly accused of watching pornography on her computer at work has won £20,000 at an employment tribunal. It is a case showing how we all rely on trust in a working relationship and when that is breached unjust outcomes can be the result.
Elaine Buckley, who had been a finance manager at Waters Edge Ceramics in Oldham, was sacked for gross misconduct after she had been asked to explain why pornography sites had been found on her work computer. The claims came a week after Mrs Buckley had been involved in an argument with her line manager who was also her boss’s daughter.
She was asked to attend a disciplinary hearing after the argument where the allegations were made and, despite her firm denials, the company first suspended and then sacked her, stating that she had accessed inappropriate and obscene websites. She unsuccessfully appealed against the decision and so took the company to a tribunal which heard that another member of staff may well have accessed the sites and there was no actual evidence that it had been Mrs Buckley who had viewed the pornography.
The employment judge ruled that she had been unfairly dismissed under section 98 (4) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and awarded her £20,000 for loss of earnings. Though the right outcome has been achieved, Mrs Buckley was not far away from having her work record tarnished for life. So, be careful in checking who has access to your computer and whether they are using it for the purpose intended.
A nurse who was sacked by the NHS after being found guilty of more than 60 charges, including racial abuse, was subsequently hired by a council to draft its policy on race relations. I want to know how much the council knew about her previous job when they asked her to fulfil this role.
Susan Horton, who worked at St Mary’s Hospital in Kettering, was fired, along with a colleague after a string of offences including wearing a golliwog badge to mock black colleagues and making monkey noises when talking about a black doctor. She also called one a gorilla and joked about feeding him bananas.
However, it emerged that after leaving the NHS Horton was recruited by Wellingborough Council as a community safety officer, where her job involved writing the council’s policy on race hate and talking on that subject to 300 fellow council employees.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council tribunal threw Horton and her colleague out of the nursing profession altogether after they were found guilty of the charges levelled against them which, apart from racial abuse, also included using inappropriate language and physical abuse against some patients including a 70-year-old man who was kicked and hit by Horton.
So, what did the council know at the time they asked her to write the race-relations material? It seems incredible that they knew full well about the reasons for her dismissal yet wanted her to write this anyway. I’ll try and find out!
Are women treated a second-class citizens in the rail industry? If you have any experience of this particular sector then please let us know. I am asking because a total of 34 women are involved in an equal pay claim against Network Rail which, if they win, could end up costing the organisation millions of pounds.
They are claiming that female employers are being paid substantially less than their male counterparts for doing similar jobs and are being assisted in their claim by the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association. The 34 women, who all work in middle management, are claiming back pay of over £25,000 and their claims could just be the tip of the iceberg with many more possibly considering a claim.
The union says the survey showed that the pay gap between men and women was commonly about £4,500 at NR, but in some cases could be as high as £10,000. So, in your experience are women discriminated against because of their sex in the rail industry and at Network Rail in particular? Tell me what you think.
It appears that the government is split in two over employment reforms being proposed by Adrian Beecroft. Therefore it is uncertain what measures will come into force and if they will have been watered down to appeal to both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
While it is believed that David Cameron is ready to back the venture capitalist’s reforms, which would make it easier for companies to dismiss under-performing staff, and his Conservative back benches will also overwhelmingly be in support, the business secretary Vince Cable has reacted angrily to the proposals, saying that he was opposed to the “ideological zealots who want to encourage British firms to fire at will”. He said it was nonsense to suggest that businesses would start to employ more people and the economy would begin to grow if labour rights were stripped down to the bare minimum.
Even before news of Cable’s damning verdict the Beecroft report was highly controversial. One of the main recommendations, which is also one of the most contentious, is the “compulsory no fault dismissal” whereby companies would be able to sack workers without explanation by offering a redundancy payment. It also proposes delaying laws forcing companies to provide pensions for their workers and calls for an end to the spread of flexible working, with a new voluntary code of conduct rather than new laws. Beecroft will also extend to large firms, “collective redundancies”, where over 100 workers are dismissed with only 30 days notice. At the present time larger firms have to pay an additional 60 days worth of wages.
Conservatives blame the last Labour government for the current situation, saying that the laws brought in under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have stifled business and “exacerbated the national problem of high unemployment”, however, they will not find it easy to get these proposals into law and Vince Cable’s intervention looks certain to increase tensions between the two coalition partners.
Should laws be brought in to make it easier for firms to dismiss under-performing members of staff and, if so will such moves help the economy? Trade unions and others opposed to the measures, say that while the proposals would be unfair, they would not have the effect on the economy that those in support of the report are claiming. Who is right? Tell us what you think.