Last night, the Scott & Company Legal Awards 2016 took place at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. 59 entries made the shortlist in a year which attracted a consistently high number of firms. Blackadders were one of 35 firms named as finalists and were ultimately crowned Employment Team of the Year 2016.
In support of this award, clients had stated that the Blackadders’ employment team are “the best in the field”, “highly efficient and very approachable” as well as “cost effective and extremely knowledgeable”. “Whoever we speak to in the team, we are always made to feel that we are the number one priority. We would not consider using anyone else.”
The judging panel stated that the judging process had been very difficult, given the high calibre of entries in all categories. However, ultimately, the panel felt that the Blackadders’ employment team were the best in their category. In addition to dealing with a number of “high profile cases” over the past twelve months, the judges stated that Blackadders’ employment team offered “a fresh and innovative approach” to employment law which made them stand out as leaders in their field.
Simon Allison, Head of the Employment Team, stated that he was surprised and extremely honoured to have won the award, given the high standard of the fellow finalists. He dedicated the award to his team on the basis that they had worked really well together as a team on various projects over the past year and were, in his view, thoroughly deserving of the award.
Prior to the awards ceremony, Simon had taken a bet with his team that, if they won, he would take them for a weekend in Dublin but that, if they lost, they would be writing his blogs for him for the next two months. Last night’s result spells an expensive month for Simon (who was last seen googling discount campsites and two star hostels in the Irish capital).
Well done Simon, Jack and Andrew – Employment Team of the Year 2016
Vicarious liability is a legal phrase which means the employer is liable for their employee’s actions if those actions are carried out during the course of employment. For example if a lorry driver is involved in an accident while transporting goods and the accident is the driver’s fault, it is likely that the employer will have to pay any liability which arises from the accident. The types of employee conduct that an employer will be liable for continues to widen.
Muhamud v WM Morrison Supermarkets
There was a recent case involving an employee who was responsible for the running of the petrol pumps and its kiosk at a Morrisons store. When a customer came into the kiosk to pay for his petrol, he was subjected to unprovoked racial abuse by the employee. On returning to his car, the customer was told never to return to the shop by the employee who, by this stage, had followed the customer and had opened the passenger door. When the customer tried to close the door, he was punched in the head by the employee. The customer was punched again after leaving the vehicle to close the passenger door.
Although there was little doubt that the customer had been wronged, the issue that needed to be decided by the Supreme Court was whether the employee would be liable for any damages, or if it would be the employer. The Supreme Court therefore had to decide if the employee’s conduct could be considered to be within the course of employment. Worryingly for employers it was decided that there was a ‘close connection’ between the employee’s responsibilities and his conduct and his actions were therefore within the course of employment. It was the employee’s job to serve the customer and although his conduct was inexcusable, it came about because of these duties. As Morrisons had trusted the employee with this position, it was held to be fair to hold them responsible for the employee’s abuse of it.
What can we learn?
This is a wake-up call for employers, showing how even inexplicable behaviour can be held to be within the course of employment. In order to give yourself the best opportunity of avoiding this happening to you, you should ensure that line managers know their staff well and review your disciplinary policies to ensure staff are aware of what is (and is not) acceptable conduct. We would be more than happy to give you assistance with this if you like.
Solicitor – Employment Law
Employers need to keep 1 April 2016 in their diaries. This is an important date in terms of how workers are paid. Effective from 1 April 2016, employers must pay the National Living Wage (“NLW”) for those aged 25 and over. From the effective date, workers in this age bracket need to be paid a minimum of £7.20 per hour.
This is a good thing for individuals and obviously an extra cost to businesses (an increase of fifty pence per hour on the current National Minimum Wage). The other existing NMW thresholds remain the same for workers below age 25, these thresholds changing in October of each year. In essence, the NLW is just another tier to the NMW structure for those aged 25 and over.
There is also a voluntary rate in Scotland of £8.25 per hour. However, employers will be compliant with the law so long as they pay £7.20 per hour for those aged 25 and over.
Employers should also bear in mind that the Government is actively naming and shaming employers who do not comply with their obligations. Ensure that you keep your business off of the naughty list by increasing pay to match the NLW. In addition to claims for back pay, employers who act in breach of their obligations can also be fined up to £20,000 per employee!
Senior Solicitor – Employment Law