Research finds that couples are prioritising homeownership over marriage

A survey conducted by specialist lender, Together, has found that just four per cent of British woman would rather spend money on their wedding than on a house deposit.

The same survey also found that 70 per cent of adults would rather put the £17,674 average cost of a wedding towards a deposit to take the first step on the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, there were significant differences between the attitudes of men and women, with 74 per cent opting to put the money into a deposit, compared with just 64 per cent of men.

Just 3.9 per cent of women and 6.1 per cent of men would use the money towards a wedding.

Richard Tugwell, a director at Together, said: “Home ownership clearly remains a huge priority for the British public, as our latest research demonstrates. With the costs of weddings are property rising in comparison to wages over the last few decades, sacrifices inevitably have to be made. The results of our survey show the majority of people are choosing to get on the property ladder rather than pay for their big day.”

Inheritance dispute arises after millionaire dies without a Will in the middle of a major property transaction

The death of a millionaire banker involved in a significant property transaction has led to an inheritance dispute between his daughters and his former partner.

At the time of Rainer Kahrmann’s sudden death in 2014, he had been involved in property transactions that eventually brought in £4.4 million. £2.2 million of these proceeds went to Mr Kahrmann’s former partner, Hilary Harrison-Morgan, with the remainder going to his daughters.

However, the sisters were unhappy about how the transaction had taken place and so chose to return their £1.1 million shares to the estate.

Mrs Harrison-Morgan declined to return her share, prompting the ongoing legal battle.

Penelope Reed QC, who is representing Mr Kahrmann’s daughter, Allice, said: “in this case, there was no lawful basis for Mrs Harrison-Morgan to receive the money which should have gone to the estate.

“She should never have received the money and must now return the benefit of it to the estate by way of money had and received.”

She added: “On any view, the deceased’s share of the profits should have gone to the estate.

“He was plainly entitled to this money had he been alive, and that entitlement passed to the estate.”

However, Mrs Harrison-Morgan’s barrister, Clifford Darton QC, said: “Mr Kahrmann’s entitlement to 50 per cent of the profit from the sale had always been predicated on the basis that he would deliver vacant possession.

“After 3 July 2014, such possession could only be achieved with the consent of Mrs Harrison-Morgan or as a result of a successful claim against her.

“The payment was made… under a contract under seal and in consideration for Mrs Harrison-Morgan’s vacation of the property and any claims over it.”

A decision in the case has been reserved until a later date.

Payout for 89-year-old NHS secretary sacked ‘because she wouldn’t use the office computer’

An NHS trust has made a payout to an 89-year-old woman who was found by an Employment Tribunal to have been wrongly dismissed as a result of being discriminated because of her age.

Eileen Jolly was dismissed from her role as a secretary at the Royal Berkshire Hospital after managers said she was not using a computer system as a result of her ‘old secretarial ways’.

At an earlier hearing, Employment Judge Andrew Gumbiti-Zimuto, found that the trust had discriminated against Mrs Jolly on the grounds of age. He said that her age and health conditions had been commented upon inappropriately and described her dismissal as being “tainted by discrimination”.

A remedy hearing had been due to take place, but the trust instead opted to offer Mrs Jolly an out-of-court cash settlement, which she accepted.

A spokesman for the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust is disappointed by the outcome in this case. However, the trust has and operates an equal opportunities policy and, following a detailed review of the case, is taking steps to ensure that lessons are learned and that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent any form of discrimination in the workplace.

“The trust will comply with the tribunal’s order to pay an agreed sum to Mrs Jolly by way of compensations.

“Given that these proceedings have been upsetting and distressing for all concerned, the trust is pleased that this matter is now concluded and parties can move on. It wishes Mrs Jolly all the best for the future.”

Is an employer obliged to postpone a disciplinary hearing pending the outcome of a police investigation into an employee?

No, in almost all circumstances, held the Court of Appeal in North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust v Gregg. 

Where employees are suspected of having committed misconduct, such as theft, fraud, assault or substance abuse, complications can arise where there is a criminal investigation into the behaviour which is also the subject of an internal disciplinary investigation.  Most employers will not wish to wait for the outcome of criminal proceedings before conducting the disciplinary hearing, particularly if the employee has been suspended on full pay, as this will usually take several months.

FACTS:  Dr Gregg was employed as a consultant anaesthetist by North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust). In 2016 the Trust became concerned about the deaths of a number of patients under Dr Gregg’s care and launched an investigation while suspending him on full pay.  At the same time, the Trust notified the police and the General Medical Council. In May 2017, the Interim Orders Tribunal (part of the General Medical Council) imposed an interim suspension order on Dr Gregg and, in light of this, the Trust suspended his salary.

Dr Gregg’s lawyer advised him not to participate in a disciplinary hearing as he would risk prejudicing himself in the criminal investigation. The Trust refused to adjourn the hearing but then Dr Gregg successfully obtained an interim injunction in the High Court, preventing the Trust from continuing with its investigation until the police investigation was complete.  The High Court also found that the Trust was in breach of contract for not continuing to pay Dr Gregg his salary during the interim suspension.

The Trust appealed to the Court of Appeal.

HELD: The Court of Appeal overturned the High Court injunction, holding that employers do not have to postpone disciplinary proceedings to wait for the outcome of criminal investigations.  However, the Court upheld the High Court’s decision that Dr Gregg should have been paid his salary during his interim suspension.

The Court found that the Trust had not been entitled to withhold Dr Gregg’s pay during his period of interim suspension because:

  1. the interim suspension was for the purpose of preserving the position until more was known about the allegations, rather than as a sanction.
  2. the express terms of Dr Gregg’s contract of employment did not permit the deduction of pay during an interim suspension, nor was there any evidence that this had become an implied term of the contract by custom and practice.
  3. Dr Gregg had remained ready, willing and able to work even though the decision of the Interim Orders Tribunal had removed his registration to do so.

The Court ruled that where the contract did not address the issue of pay deduction during suspension, the default position should be that an interim suspension should not attract the deduction of pay.  Exceptional circumstances, such as a complete or part admission of guilt, might justify such a deduction, but did not arise in this particular case.

With regard to pursuing an internal disciplinary process in parallel with an investigation by the police, the Court established the following principles:

  1. An employer does not usually need to wait for the conclusion of any criminal proceedings before commencing or continuing internal disciplinary proceedings or dismissing an employee.
  2. The court will usually only intervene if the employee can show that the continuation of the disciplinary proceedings gives rise to a real danger of a miscarriage of justice in the criminal proceedings if the court does not intervene.

In this case, the Court held that there was no evidence that the Trust’s actions in progressing the disciplinary process without waiting for the outcome of the police investigation would have had any effect on the criminal investigation or give rise to a real danger of a miscarriage of justice.

The Court also held that it would not have been wrong for the Trust, having started to investigate alleged misconduct, to ‘side-step’ the conduct disciplinary process by considering dismissal on the basis of Dr Gregg losing his registration to practice.  His contract allowed for alternative grounds for dismissal and starting one process did not prevent the Trust from relying on another.

Comment:  It is rare for an employee to obtain injunctive relief in the course of disciplinary proceedings.  Such cases are usually confined to the public sector where contractual disciplinary procedures and potentially career-ending allegations are more common.

However, this decision makes clear that an employer does not usually have to wait for the outcome of a criminal investigation before proceeding with an internal disciplinary process.  It should be noted that the standard of proof for the courts where a crime is alleged is ‘ beyond reasonable doubt’  whereas the question for the employer in carrying out a disciplinary procedure is whether it had a genuine belief, on reasonable grounds, that the employee conducted themselves in the manner alleged.

With regard to suspension this decision confirms that, without a contractual right to do so, it is unlikely that an employer will be able to stop an employee’s pay during a period of suspension and is consistent with the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures which states that ‘suspension should not be considered a disciplinary action’.

Should holiday entitlement for term-time only workers be subject to a pro-rata reduction?

No, held the Court of Appeal in Harpur Trust v Brazel.

Workers in Great Britain, including part-time workers have a right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).  How this applies to a worker with no normal working hours can be difficult to establish.  A common approach is to say that the worker accrues holiday entitlement at the rate of 12.07% of hours worked, based on the fact that the standard working year is 46.4 weeks (that is, 52 weeks less the statutory 5.6 weeks holiday entitlement) and 5.6 weeks is 12.07% of 46.4 weeks.

FACTS:  Mrs Brazel was a part-time music teacher engaged under a permanent zero-hours contract.  She worked variable hours, typically giving between 20 and 30 half-hour lessons a week.  The school year varied between 32 and 35 weeks. Mrs Brazel was therefore a part-time worker in two senses, firstly that she did not work a full working week and, secondly, that during the school holidays, she did not work at all.  It is the second type of part-time working with which this case is concerned.

Mrs Brazel’s contract stated that she was entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave in line with the WTR and that she was required to take this during school holidays.  As the school holidays were far longer than 5.6 weeks, no particular weeks were designated as statutory holiday but by agreement the Trust made three annual payments in respect of holiday. Following Acas guidance, the Trust calculated Mrs Brazel’s earnings at the end of each term and paid her one third of 12.07% of that figure.

Mrs Brazel argued that this resulted in her being underpaid.  She argued that the ‘week’s pay’ calculation set out in section 224 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) for workers without normal working hours, which would involve taking her average earnings over the 12 weeks immediately before holiday were taken, would result in holiday pay of around 17.5 % of her earnings for the term. She brought claims in the employment tribunal for unlawful deductions from wages for the difference as well as a claim asserting less favourable treatment on grounds of part-time status. The employment tribunal dismissed her claims.  It held that a principle of pro-rating should apply and that the statutory scheme should be read for part-time workers, who worked fewer than 46.4 weeks per year, so that payment was capped at 12.07% of annualised hours. Mrs Brazel appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in relation to the correct calculation of holiday pay only. The EAT upheld her appeal, finding that the tribunal had erred in capping her holiday pay at 12.07% of annual earnings. The EAT held that there was no requirement in the WTR to pro rate holiday for part-time employees to ensure that full-time employees were not treated less favourably and the tribunal should have applied the straightforward calculation prescribed by section 224 of the ERA.  The Trust appealed to the Court of Appeal.

HELD:  Lord Justice Underhill, giving the Court of Appeal’s judgement, noted that the issue was whether Mrs Brazel’s holiday entitlement should be reduced to reflect the fact that she was a ‘part-year’ worker, a phrase used by him to describe someone who did not work throughout the year.  He accepted that EU law requires only that workers accrue entitlement to paid annual leave in proportion to the time that they work but he concluded that it was not mandatory to adopt this approach and more particularly, there was no requirement in EU law to pro-rate the leave entitlement of part-year workers to that of full-year workers. He acknowledged  that at first sight not applying the pro-rata principle could lead to anomalous results if part-time workers worked a few weeks a year but still had 5.6 weeks’ holiday a year. However, he was not persuaded that this was unprincipled or obviously unfair.  It was important that Mrs Brazel was on a permanent contract and it was not unreasonable to treat that as a sufficient basis for fixing the amount of holiday entitlement, irrespective of the number of hours, days or weeks that she might have to perform under the contract; the actual days from which she would be relieved, and the amount of her holiday pay would reflect her actual working pattern. Given the wide spectrum of working arrangements, be it part-time, part-year or casual, there is an obvious attraction to having the same entitlement for all permanent employees.

Lord Justice Underhill accepted that this approach would lead to odd results in extreme cases such as the cricket coach or exam invigilator, whose services are required for only a few weeks a year.  However, general rules sometimes produce anomalies and it would be unusual for those who work for only a few weeks a year to be on a permanent contract as opposed to being engaged on a free-lance basis.

On a natural construction of the WTR, there is no provision for pro-rating and an employer should simply carry out a straightforward exercise of identifying a week’s pay in accordance with the provisions of section 224 of the ERA where there are no normal working hours and multiplying that figure by 5.6.

Comment:  Although Lord Justice Underhill made clear in this judgement that the ruling only applies to holiday entitlement and pay for those on permanent contracts, it could potentially lead the way for casual workers not employed on a permanent contract to argue that their holiday pay should also not be subject to the 12.07% cap. It should also be noted that Lord Justice Underhill emphasised that the case was about ‘part-year’ workers and not part-time workers, who work part of a week, and so the conclusions are inapplicable to part-time but full-year workers.  Where there are part-year workers on a permanent contract, be it in respect of anything from offshore oil rigs to education, the approach in this case should be followed.

Did a manager’s massaging of an employee’s shoulders constitute sexual harassment?

No, held the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Raj v Capita Business Services Limited 

FACTS:   Mr Raj was employed by Capita Business Services Limited (CBS) as a customer service agent.  When he was dismissed, with under a year’s continuous service, he brought claims of sexual harassment under the Equality Act 2010, alleging that on several occasions, while he sat at his desk his manager, who was female, stood behind him and gave him a shoulder, neck and back massage.  He claimed that this was:

  • unwanted conduct ‘related to sex’, a protected characteristic, which is prohibited conduct under the Equality Act where the conduct has the purpose or effect of –
  • violating B’s dignity, or
  • creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B; and
  • unwanted conduct ‘of a sexual nature’, which is prohibited conduct under the Equality Act where both –
  • A engages in unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, and
  • the conduct has the purpose or effect of either violating B’s dignity, or creating an  intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.

HELD:  The employment tribunal rejected the harassment claims. Although it found that the conduct was unwanted, and that it had the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for Mr Raj, it concluded that the conduct was not related to sex, nor of a sexual nature. Although Mr Raj’s manager had tried to argue that she had done no more than tap Mr Raj’s shoulders on one occasion, the employment tribunal found that the evidence established that there was contact of a massage type lasting two or three minutes, which was long enough to make Mr Raj feel uncomfortable.  However, there was little evidence that the purpose behind it was a link to Mr Raj’s sex. Instead, the tribunal concluded that the purpose of the manager’s conduct was ‘misguided encouragement’ accompanied by words of praise to an underperforming employee. The tribunal took into account the fact that the contact was with a gender neutral part of the body, it had taken place in an open- plan office and the manager had not behaved in a comparable way to any other employee, male or female.  Although the conduct was unwise and uncomfortable, it was not harassment as prohibited under the Equality Act.  Mr Raj appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal but the employment tribunal’s decision was upheld. 

Comment: It is easy to assume in the age of #MeToo that any unwanted physical contact between a manager and a junior employee would amount to sexual harassment.  However, this decision highlights:

  • how each case turns on its own facts. For example, the outcome may have been different  if the manager had been male and the junior employee had been female; and
  • how important it is for a claimant to satisfy all aspects of the legal definition to succeed in a claim for sexual harassment. 

That said, it is clear that the decision does not encourage or condone any physical contact in the workplace and employers should ensure that their anti-harassment policy and training explains  this so as to avoid any potential misunderstandings.