As we start the long journey back to ‘normal’, we hope June finds you well and still smiling in what is ‘National Smile Month’? We know that those of you in the HR/Employment law sphere are finding the re-opening of workplaces particularly challenging currently. We aim to help you manage this with guidance in this month’s newsletter on working safely, returning staff to the workplace, changing terms and conditions, and ICO guidance on data protection implications of the return. We also update you on reclaiming SSP and ACAS guidance on handling disciplinaries and grievances during the pandemic.
In our case update, we bring news on a recent EAT decision relating to constructive dismissal, as well a CJEU decision about an intention to discriminate.
It’s been another busy month for us as our clients continue to be challenged by furlough issues, grapple with returning their staff to workplaces and increasingly (sadly), the requirement to cut operating costs through redundancy or contractual changes. Additionally, we are managing some HR projects for our clients which is proving both interesting and stretching work or us.
A real highlight recently has been running our first webinar which examined the employment law issues arising from returning to work. (If you weren’t able to join us you can watch it here.)
Our regular employment law events allow us to meet new and existing clients in person, something we certainly missed in our webinar. However, we’ve received such positive feedback about the style and content of the webinar (and the volume of audience questions and interaction was reassuring) that we are now working on the next two:
Tuesday 23 June 10am-11.30am
Tuesday 9 July 10am–11.30am
(more information on this webinar to follow soon)
As with our first webinar, we are donating all ticket sales in full to our chosen charity, The Bridge Foundation. This is a charity local to us doing vital work in child and family mental health. They really need support at this critical time and we hope to report later on some of the work our donations have enabled.
We do hope you’ll be able to join us for one or both of these webinars.
Depending on who you are, where you live and what context you work in, your own awareness and experience of racism may have presented itself differently. However, we know that racism (conscious and unconscious) is a social construct that exists all over the world. In the last few weeks, those of us whose lives may not have been affected much in the past by racism are waking up to this reality in a new way and must come together to take responsibility now.
Here in Bristol, our firm’s home, the direct legacy of enormous wealth built on the horrific slave trade is all around us, just below the surface. And the statistics reminding us that black and ethnic minority people tend to do less well in terms of equality, justice, education and wealth in our society are easy to find.
As employment lawyers, from the very start of our legal training we knew of the importance of racial equality and, as with all aspects of equality, we have been committed to upholding it and promoting it – both professionally and morally. We have been proud to provide a lot of equality training over the years and never miss an opportunity to remind our employer clients of both their legal obligations and also the social and economic benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Yet we have also seen many, many cases where discrimination, in all its forms, remains present in the workplace (a microcosm of wider society). We are also particularly aware of the perniciousness of intersectionality, whereby the combination of two or more protected characteristics in a person (e.g. ethnic minority and female; or gay and disabled) can increase the likelihood of them suffering discrimination several times over.
Menzies Law is proud to stand with all those who now protest that enough is enough, and that we must take this opportunity to re-design our relationship with race equality as a society. We recognise that, as white people of considerable privilege, we may have done more than some towards this aim, but not yet enough.
It feels that, over these last couple of weeks, a shift has happened, that privileged white people have woken up and been reminded that it is we who have the power to bring about enormous change, and it is not enough for black and ethnic minority people to be left to protest and try to force change by themselves. That responsibility lies with all of us.