The most high profile employment law news story of the last month is the tale of working conditions at a Sports Direct warehouse. It seems unlikely that in this case business owner Mike Ashley will be of the view that any publicity is good publicity, with reports of staff giving birth in a toilet rather than calling in sick and conditions being likened to a Victorian workhouse. Much of the information, including the suggestion that staff are treated more like commodities that human beings, has not come from tabloids but from a report by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. Mr Ashley also admitted to MP's that the company was recently investigated for failure to pay the minimum wage.
Sticking with working conditions, it is still far from clear who will win the Jeremy Hunt versus junior doctors row. After the junior doctors in England rejected the new contract Mr Hunt confirmed it would be imposed upon them from October 2016. The BMA had recommended the contract to the junior doctors as the best terms that could be achieved, but 58% of those who voted refused to accept it. The decision to impose the contract could lead to the resurrection of two legal actions - one by the BMA on gender equality grounds and the other initiated by a small group of junior doctors contending that Mr Hunt has no legal power to impose the contract.
After much speculative commentary on how employment law will be affected by Brexit, David Davis, newly appointed minister for Brexit, seems to suggest that in fact very little may change. In an article posted on conservativehome.com suggesting that EU regulation impacts on global competitiveness Mr Davis says "To be clear, I am not talking here about employment regulation. All the empirical studies show that it is not employment regulation that stultifies economic growth, but all the other market-related regulations, many of them wholly unnecessary. Britain has a relatively flexible workforce, and so long as the employment law environment stays reasonably stable it should not be a problem for business." Those hoping to see the back of TUPE or the Agency Workers Regulations may be in for a disappointment.
Some positive news this month, this time in connection with the introduction of the national living wage (NLW) - something that the Office for Budget Responsibility said would lead to 60,000 job losses by 2020. A recent briefing by the Resolution Foundation suggests that employers have responded to the NLW by increasing prices or cutting profits rather than jobs. However, the report does raise concerns about the impact of leaving the EU on the NLW.
And finally, for those HR and Tribunal representatives whose tribunal preparation has been frustrated by references to employment tribunal cases that they have not been able to locate, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service has announced that from Autumn 2016 judgements will be available on line. Judgements of the Employment Appeal Tribunal have been available on line for some time now but obtaining first instance judgements of Employment Tribunals was more problematic. Although new judgements will be placed on the database, a decision has not yet been made regarding judgements made prior to the introduction of the online service.