Month: July 2022

Burley Law Tech Wednesday 18th May 2022

Tech Wednesday Summary

Our recent Tech Wednesday for the entrepreneurial and technology sector with Bruntwood was a great success.

We went through the different stages of setting up a business, from the development phase all the way to seeking the investment, and we addressed different issues to be aware of to ensure your innovative idea has the best chance of success.

Here is a breakdown of our case study on starting a business with Anna and Ben.

Stage 1: Setting up the business 

Topic 1 = Defining the legal structure of the business

Stage 2: The development stage

Topic 2 = Status of people working in the business

Topic 3 = Confidentiality and workers

Topic 4 = Securing the IP

Stage 3: Launching the product 

Topic 5 = Trade marking your brand

Stage 4: Looking for investment 

By considering all of the above when setting up the business, Ben’s chances of securing investment would have increased.

In conclusion, when you have a fantastic new and innovative idea for a business that can change the market, make sure you look at protecting your company, the product and your ideas starting with how you set up the organisation, what the different roles of people you work with mean and how you can make sure your intellectual property is secure even if the business structure may change.

If you need any more help with this, please reach out to us for an initial chat.

2022 LGBTQ+ Case Employment Law

Maya Forstater wins tribunal claim for discrimination due to her gender critical beliefs

The Equality Act provides that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic. “Religion or belief” is one of the nine specified protected characteristics. “Gender reassignment” and “sex” are also protected characteristics. 

The Forstater case has become the most prominent case on the potential conflict between “gender-critical beliefs” and the rights of transgender and non-binary people, which remains a highly challenging area for employers.

Maya Forstater was a writer and researcher on sustainable development, working for CGD Europe, a not-for-profit think tank, as a visiting fellow and consultant.  She had an active social media presence, including a Twitter account and a personal blog, which predated her involvement with CGD.

Forstater worked for the Centre for Growth Development as a researcher and writer and was active on social media. From 2018, she began tweeting about gender and sex. After her colleagues complained that her tweets were transphobic her visiting fellowship was not renewed and she was not taken on as an employee. 

She brought a claim against her employer, claiming she had been discriminated against because of her philosophical beliefs.

Forstater lost her initial tribunal claim but that judgement was overturned in a landmark decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) last year.  The EAT decided that under the Equality Act 2010, Ms Forstater’s gender critical beliefs were protected as a ‘philosophical belief’ and concluded that although they “may well be profoundly offensive and even distressing to many others…. they are beliefs that are and must be tolerated in a pluralist society”. 

The case went back to a fresh tribunal who recently ruled in her favour that her employer had discriminated her on the basis of her public views on transgenderism, sex and gender criticism by not renewing her contract.

Forstater is a co-founder of the campaign group Sex Matters, a not-for-profit organisation which states they “campaign, advocate and produce resources to promote clarity about sex in public policy, law and culture”. The employment tribunal found evidence that her activism had influenced her employer’s decision not to renew her contract or offer her employment. They also found that Forstater was victimised by her employer when her profile was taken off their website following her complaint.

Maya Forstater released a statement following the decision made by the employment tribunal that her case was important for “everyone who believes in the importance of truth and free speech”. 

What does this decision mean for employers? 

Firstly, this decision is not ‘legally binding’ on employers which means it doesn’t have to be followed in future tribunal cases featuring religion or belief discrimination. It could also be overturned on appeal.

Secondly, the EAT decision in Forstater reminds us that many philosophical beliefs are protected under the Equality Act 2010 (EQA). This means employers need to be aware that disciplining someone for simply holding their belief, even if it may be offensive to other employees, may be regarded as unlawful direct discrimination by the employment tribunal. The only exception to this rule, is where the belief becomes extreme e.g., Nazism, Totalitarianism. 

The Forstater case does not mean that employees are free to exercise their views in the workplace without consequences.  If someone’s belief results in them bullying or harassing other employees, then disciplinary action (or even dismissal if the circumstances justify it) is likely to be fair and a tribunal would have little sympathy with a claim for religion or belief discrimination in this situation. For example, in another recent tribunal case a Christian doctor who held a strong belief about transgenderism and refused to use the preferred pronouns of transgender individuals, was found to have been fairly dismissed and his claim of discrimination failed. 

The Forstater decision, although likely to be unpopular with the transgender community, demonstrates the tricky balancing act employers must carry out between the competing rights of different groups in the workplace, and reminds us that free speech is a cornerstone of UK law.  

Heat wave in the work place

Can’t stand the heat? You’re not alone!

Weather conditions are set to change this week, with the Met Office forecasting heatwaves throughout and temperatures looking to soar to 37 degrees in some parts of the UK early next week. 

Unlike other European countries where it is normal for work to stop in the middle of the day during the hot summer and restart later in the day when it is cooler, the UK workforce will be expected to battle on in the heat.  But is there anything that employers can do to help?

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) who oversees Trade Unions across the UK have urged employers to make adjustments to the workplace in order to accommodate employees during these hot weather conditions. 

Hot weather causes many disadvantages for workers, not only can it lead to health issues such as dehydration, but outdoor workers are at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer (with them being 3 times more likely to develop the illness than on average).  Apart from health and safety, there is also a question over how productive employees can be in hot conditions.

Currently, there is no proposed law which governs a legal maximum temperature for the workplace, however, the employers must still ensure that the workplace temperature is “reasonable”, with 16 degrees as a minimum guideline.  They are also under a duty to provide a safe place of work.

37 ministers from the House of Commons have also signed a motion which, if successful, would implement a legal duty upon employers to take reasonable action for the wellbeing of their employees such as having ventilation installed, and allowing employees to be away from areas which causes excessive heat in temperature. 

The TUC boss Frances O’Grady says ‘nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances’. 

What can employers do to support their employees in the heatwave? 

Employers are encouraged to allow their employees to have later starts or finish early in order to avoid the extreme heat when commuting. Employers should also consider giving their employees flexible hours or work from home options if possible, as well as a more relaxed dress code in these conditions. 

Other measures could include providing ice creams or cooling drinks to keep people cool through the day. 

Small measures like this can be key to employee wellbeing and engagement which ultimately contributes to business success, so well worth implementing.

Liz and Lisa Snowdon from ITV This Morning

When Liz met Lisa. Burley Law talks Menopause with ITV’s This Morning.

When the ITV This Morning menopause bus started its tour, the first stop was Birmingham, where Lisa Snowdon was at the Bullring shopping centre speaking to families affected by the menopause as well as one of our clients The Night Owl, a local business who are leading the way by implementing a menopause policy to help their female staff.

Watch the whole interview here.

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