Two important employment law cases to note before Easter

Joan Pettingill Joan Pettingill 31 March 2021

Joan Pettingill, director and head of employment law and HR services at Wake Smith Solicitors, looks at two landmark cases and decisions ahead of the annual holiday.

Joan said: “Firstly, a case which will have repercussions for supermarkets and their employees across the country.

“Asda shop workers won the latest stage in their fight for equal pay in a ruling that could lead to a £500m compensation claim.

“Judges at the UK’s highest court, The Supreme Court, backed a 2016 employment tribunal decision, and ruled that the shop workers, who are mostly women, can compare their work to those in the distribution centre.

“Around 40,000 shop workers say they should be paid the same as the predominantly male staff who work in the supermarket’s distribution depots, and who receive a higher wage.

“The win, which is the biggest-ever equal pay claim in the UK private sector, is the first major stage of the long-running court battle, and has implications for workers in all the major supermarkets.

“It will have repercussions for about 8,000 workers at other supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Morrisons, who are also in equal pay disputes with their employers.”

Secondly, the Supreme Court has ruled that carers who sleep overnight at work in case they are needed, are not entitled to minimum wage for whole shift.

Judges dismissed appeals from two care workers, Claire Tomlinson-Blake and John Shannon, who argued they were entitled to minimum wage while asleep.

Mencap support worker Tomlinson-Blake had appealed against a Court of Appeal ruling that carers are only entitled to the minimum wage when they are required to be awake for work - and not while asleep.

She challenged the decision at the Supreme Court alongside a linked appeal from Surrey care home worker Shannon, whose case was heard along with Tomlinson-Blake's at the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court's written ruling, which followed a previous hearing in February 2020, said that "sleep-in workers... are not doing time work for the purposes of the national minimum wage, if they are not awake".

"The sleep-in worker who is merely present is treated as not working for the purpose of calculating the hours which are to be taken into account for national minimum wage purposes and the fact that he was required to be present during specified hours was insufficient to lead to the conclusion that he was working."

Care organisations responded to the ruling saying the sector had avoided a "potentially catastrophic financial outcome" and estimated back pay liabilities of £400m.

Joan added: “And finally, Happy Easter to all our readers, enjoy the break.”

For further advice on any employment law and HR matters contact Joan Pettingill at Wake Smith Solicitors on 0114 224 2087 or at [email protected] 

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