Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Rulings Could Change Nature of UK "Gig" Economy

Crucial rulings affecting thousands of workers in the fast - growing "gig" economy  will inevitably lead to more challenges by workers in this sector who seek workers' rights such as access to reasonable adjustments and holidays.

To put things into context,no less than 60% of self-employed  people work in the transportation or storage sector  with many more in the low paid food and cleaning industries.

In two on-going cases: Aslam and Farrar and others v Uber BV, Uber London and Uber Britannia Ltd,and Pimlico Plumbers Ltd and another v Smith, the claimants are basically seeking the same ends - their entitlement to minimum wage and paid leave, arguing that, they are arms' reach third party contractors running their own businesses, they would have no such rights.

In the case of Aslam and Farrar v Uber, the ET found against the latter,whilst in Pimlico Plumbers .v Smith,the Court of Appeal ruled against the former but the Supreme Court has given Pimlico Plumbers permission to appeal with the hearing set for February,2018.Uber's application to "leap frog" an appeal to the Supreme Court has been refused and Uber has yet to exercise the right of appeal.

The two cases are similar in that they both raise the fundamental question of whether workers in both instances can be seen as self-employed or workers, with all the rights that implies.

In the Uber case, Mr Aslam and Mr Farrar were put forward by the GMB union in a test case for 40,000 individuals currently operating as Uber drivers,of which three quarters are based in London.Uber contended that the drivers were running their own businesses,keeping their own accounts and declaring their own tax.As such they were third party contractors without any employment relationship or rights.

The drivers contended that they were workers and as such entitled to rights under the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998 which afforded them paid leave.

"The notion,"said the Tribunal,"that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform is to our minds ridiculous"; "Simple commonsense argues to the contrary".

In the case of Pimlico Plumbers v Smith,the Court of Appeal's  decision was that a plumber who signed an agreement with the company describing himself as self-employed was in fact a worker.

Mr Smith was required under the contract to wear Pimlico's uniform,use a van leased from Pimlico (with a GPS tracker and the company,s logo), and work a minimum number of weekly hours. He could choose when he worked and which jobs he took, was required to provide his own tools,and handled his own tax and insurance.

Mr Smith brought claims in the ET that were dependant on his being a "worker". When Mr Smith's case reached the Court of Appeal, it accepted that he was a worker, entitling him to some basic employment rights, such as the right to be paid the national minimum wage and holiday pay.

The upcoming Pimlico Plumbers ruling by the Supreme Court and the eventual outcome at Uber will undoubtedly lay the ground for more test cases by this significant sector of the UK workforce.

Aslam and Farrar and others v Uber BV,Uber London Ltd and Uber Britannia Ltd (2202550/2015)

Pimlico Plumbers and Charlie Mullins v Gary Smith (UKEAT 049512DM)

Friday, 1 December 2017

holiday pay elephantine judgment

As we know some companies engage staff by labelling them as 'self employed' when really they should be defined as 'workers'.  'Worker' status ascribes certain benefits such as the ability to pursue various claims in the employment tribunal but most importantly paid annual leave.

A new judgment has exposed companies, who engage people in what has been dubbed 'the gig economy' to thousands of pounds in compensation payments. The judgment involved Conley King who worked as a sash curtain fitter on a self-employed basis, but was later found to have workers' rights. He brought a successful claim for £27,000 of backpay holiday pay he says he should have received.

Being classified as self employed means they have no protection against unfair dismissal, no right to redundancy payments, and no right to receive the national minimum wage, paid holiday or sickness pay. Often however self employed workers have more flexibility and will be paid more to compensate for the loss of rights. The test defining a worker is complex and legal advice should be sought before a claim is commenced.

In the UK, it is estimated that one million people are employed in this type of capacity and so there are potentially serious implications for companies who have embraced 'the gig economy'.

King V Sash Windows judgment

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

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What the employer should know about breast feeding

 Failing to conduct an appropriate risk assessment for a breastfeeding employee was deemed sex discrimination. That was the ruling of the European Court of Justice in a recent case in which a breastfeeding mother - a working nurse in a Spanish hospital's accident and emergency unit - claimed that the risk assessment did not comply with the requirements of EU Directive 92/85/EEC covering measures to improve health and safety for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. This changes the approach employers should take. Before the decision to commission a risk assessment in this situation was only deemed 'good practice' by ACAS.

Her employer's risk assessment, argued the Claimant, had concluded without a substantial  explanation that her work was "risk free", so her request for an adjustment in her working pattern on account of breastfeeding  had been declined.

The Claimant, Ms Otero Ramos, alleged that her employer was in breach of the Equal Treatment Directive.In reaching its decision, the CJEU held that if a breastfeeding  mother could show that a risk assessment was defective or not done, it gave rise to a prima facie case of discrimination.

Ms Otero had informed her employer that she was feeding her child on breast milk and that the tasks required by her work were liable to have an adverse effect on that milk and expose  her to health and safety risks,due to a complex shift rotation system, ionising radiation, health-care associated infections and stress.

The Court, referring to Article 118a(TEC), provided that "some types of activities may pose a specific risk,for pregnant workers, workers who have recently given birth or workers who are breastfeeding, of exposure to dangerous agents, processes or working conditions, such risks must be assessed and the result of such assessment communicated to female workers and/or their representatives".

In England and Wales, employers should be aware that there is already some protection in place, as the right to breastfeed in public is covered by The Equality Act 2010 which states, 'A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age.' Furthermore, Rhe Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires an employer to provide somewhere for a breastfeeding employee to rest and this includes being able to lie down.

(European case: 'CJEU : Otero Ramos v Servicio Galego de Saude')

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Subject Access Rules Are Changing - Are You Ready in HR?

On May 28th, 2018,the data protection regime across the EU (including the UK) will change.The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR ) will replace the provisions  of the Data Protection Act 1998.(DPA).

The GDPR preserves the rights provided under the current law and also provides new  rights and enhanced protection for individuals. Failure to comply with the provisions of the GDPR may lead  to greatly increased monetary sanctions,so it is critical that any organisations processing personal data are aware of the changes.

This data could include personnel records, metadata on computers and servers,CCTV, call logs, electronic premises access records, health and safety reports and any other electronic records or filing systems used within an organisation.

In addition, individuals will have a right to rectification of personal data being processed inaccurately by an organisation,and the right to data portability, essentially giving an individual the ability to have a copy of their personal data in a commonly used and machine-readable format.

Perhaps the most prominent and commonly used right under the DPA is subject access and this is changing under the GDPR. Organisations need to be aware of the changes and how to prepare for subject access requests under GDPR.

The GDPR defines personal data as "any information relating to a data subject" and a data subject as an identified or identifiable living person to whom personal data relates. Organisations must consider how to identify individuals, in particular employees.

Names clearly identify a person, but so may an email address, payroll number and computer login details. Careful consideration will need to be given to any other aspects of an organisation's operation that uses alternative designations (through coding or shorthand) to identify an individual.

Perhaps the biggest change to the subject access regime will be the time allowed for compliance. Less time will be available to organisations in order to comply with a subject access request. The current regime allows for 40 calendar days, but the GDPR will reduce this to one month.

Organisations may, however, be able to seek an extension of up to a maximum of two further months in cases of complex or numerous requests from an individual. If an organisation seeks an extension, it must notify the requester within one month of receiving the original request and set out why the extension is necessary. Any explanation will need to be sufficiently detailed in order to justify the request. It may be that the normal period of compliance will by default be stretched to three months in an employment context.

However, you will also need to provide additional information to employees requesting access to their data.This includes the envisaged period of storage and information about the data subject's rights.

Organisations should exercise their right,where legitimate, to ask the requester to specify the information relating to the request. This request will not pause the time for complying but it may be of particular use to those organisations that process large amounts of personal data, bringing the search into focus.

But why should the DGPR land in HR's in-tray? Surely data protection is the domain of your risk management team or the technical experts who monitor your systems?

Remember that abdicating responsibility for the GDPR would be a risky approach, as the new rules implement changes which will directly impact on the every day work of HR practitioners. Also important, the key concerns for departments handling employee data may be very different than for departments managing your organisation's interface with client and customer.

Deciding whether a request is "manifestly unfounded or excessive" will depend on individual facts and organisations should seek legal advice before making a determination.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Suspension is not always a neutral act - HR Guide

Suspension of Teacher Not a Neutral Act

In the case of a teacher suspended because of the alleged force she used with two children, the High Court has ruled that the suspension did, in fact, amount to a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. This has come somewhat as a surprise to practitioners who have been advising for years that suspension is a neutral act and perhaps a useful tool to 'slam the breaks on' whilst an investigation can take place. So many times have we seen policies which state that suspension should be seen as a neutral act and will be used: 'If the allegation against the employee is serious or that the presence of such an individual will impede an investigation'.

In Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth however the Appellant had not been asked for her response to the allegations against pupils O and Z and she resigned the same day. The Appellant had appealed against an order dismissing her claim against the Defendant for damages for breach of contract.

The Appellant is a teacher and , at the time of the material events in November/December 2012, had about 15 years' experience of teaching  and had worked previously with children with special educational needs. On November 8th, 2012, she entered into a contract with the Defendant to work as a teacher at Glenbrook Primary School, South London,having been  interviewed only the day before.

The Appellant ceased working in this role on December 14th, 2012,some five weeks later. She was suspended that day because of the force she used in three incidents involving O and Z and she also "resigned" on the same day.

The Executive Head Teacher, in her letter to the Appellant,said :" I must write to inform you of a decision taken today to suspend you from duty on your normal rate of pay with immediate effect.This is a precautionary suspension, in line with disciplinary procedure pending  a full investigation into allegations".

The allegations were 1) that the Appellant was seen to "drag a child very aggressively,a few feet down the corridor whilst shouting at him. 2) that " a child was dragged on the floor,out of the classroom door by yourself in the presence of another member of staff and the rest of the children and was heard to cry "help me",and that 3) "a child with special educational needs was told to leave the classroom,as he was unable to follow your instructions.When he refused you were heard to state: "If you don't walk then I will carry you out." You then proceeded to pick up the child who kicked and screamed in the presence of all the class children..."

The letter to the Appellant added that " the suspension is a neutral action and not a disciplinary sanction.The purpose of the suspension is to allow the investigation to be conducted fairly".

The Court argued that the Tribunal did not appear to have reached a specific conclusion about how difficult the two children,O and Z were. "The conclusion was to the effect that other teachers had been able to deal with them and that the Appellant had been given all the support to which she could reasonably  have expected to be entitled".

"It seems tolerably clear", argued the Court," that O and Z  presented, both individually and in combination, as a challenge to any teacher when confronted with the task of teaching and controlling  over 20 other pupils  of a similar age.
"The Appellant's Counsel at the trial advanced the proposition that the "behavioural difficulties" of O and Z were "severe".

The Court concluded, in finding in the Appellant's favour, that there were very strong reasons on the evidence heard for finding that the Defendant had been in repudiatory breach of contract and that the Appellant's so-called "resignation" amounted to a constructive dismissal.

The features which distinguish this case perhaps from others are that firstly, the allegations against the teacher were very serious and secondly that a decision to suspend, which would after all prevent her from working and risk defaming her, was decided as a 'knee jerk reaction'; no other option other than suspension was explored by The Respondent. Finally, The Claimant was not interviewed before the momentous decision to suspend was taken.

This new case is perhaps not as revolutionary as it has been received in some quarters, there certainly are relevant precedents, such as the case of 'Prospects for People with Learning Difficulties v Harris UKEAT/0612/11/DMUKEAT/0612/11/DM. Here, an employee with learning difficulties was suspended without consultation 'for her own safety' on the basis that she might slip and hurt herself in her role. There had been no such slipping incident in 8 years of her employment. The EAT found, despite arguments that suspension was 'a neutral act' that such a suspension was capable of being an act of harassment.

These cases show the importance of when advising clients, that the decision to suspend should not be treated lightly,should always be fair and undertaken with consultation. The ACAS Disciplinary guide should also be considered and gives the following helpful guidance:

'Any suspension is brief, and is never used as a sanction against the employee prior to a disciplinary meeting and decision. Keep the employee informed of progress'.

Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth EWHC/QB/2017/2019

Monday, 4 September 2017

New Vento bands for injury to feelings awards

A response to the recent consultation has been issued by The President of The Employment Tribunal for those seeking guidance on how high to pitch an injury to feelings award.  The new bands will apply to any claims issued on or after 11 September 2017 and will be:-

lower band (less serious cases): £800 to £8,400
middle band: £8,400 to £25,200
upper band (the most serious cases): £25,200 to £42,000
exceptional cases: over £42,000

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Latest on reimbursement of employment tribunal fees

The Employment Tribunals (England & Wales) have stated today:

"As you are probably aware, in advance of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Unison case an undertaking was given to the Court to refund Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal fees, should the Fees Order be declared unlawful.

"We are now working on the detailed arrangements of the scheme to enable that undertaking to be met and we aim to ensure that the process is as simple and unobtrusive as possible for those who make an application, while ensuring that refunds are only paid to those who are entitled. There are, however, a number of points of detail that we do need to address including, for example, how to deal with refunds in claims involving multiple claimants, and how it will operate when the tribunal has ordered the opposing party to reimburse a fee.

"Please bear with us during this period, and we hope to be in a position to make an announcement on the details of the refund scheme during September."

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Long awaited tribunal pension guidance

The long awaited employment tribunal pension guidance has arrived 10 years after the last set. The Guidance is complex but crucial for working out compensation when it comes to pension loss.


Monday, 7 August 2017

New Laws Will Allow People to Claw Back Their Data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.

The GDPR applies to ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’. The definitions are broadly the same as under the DPA – ie the controller says how and why personal data is processed and the processor acts on the controller’s behalf. Both data processors and controllers will face further obligations imposed on them.

The definition of 'Personal Data' is expanded under the GDPR. Under The Data Protections Act 'personal data' requested under a SAR for example is set out information 'capable of identifying' those who make the request but is the definition found in The ICO Guidance provides caveats and contradictory statements which blur the meaning.

The GDPR’s definition is more detailed and makes it clear that information such as an online identifier – eg an IP address – can be personal data. The more expansive definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people. Personal data that has been pseudonymised – eg key-coded – can fall within the scope of the GDPR depending on how difficult it is to attribute the pseudonym to a particular individual.

Personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences are not included, but similar extra safeguards apply to its processing (see Article 10).

"The new Data Protection Bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, set of data laws in the world," said Mr Hancock MP in a statement.
"It will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit," he added.
Proposals included in the bill will:

  • make it simpler for people to withdraw consent for their personal data to be used
  • let people ask for data to be deleted
  • require firms to obtain "explicit" consent when they process sensitive personal data
  • expand personal data to include IP addresses, DNA and small text files known as cookies
  • let people get hold of the information organisations hold on them much more freely
  • make re-identifying people from anonymised or pseudonymised data a criminal offence
  • This places a strong burden on firms to protect data and allows for significant fines if they fail to protect information or suffer a breach.

Tribunal Fees System Ruled Unlawful.

In what may be one of the most monumental employment decisions in recent times, the Supreme Court has just ruled  that the employment tribunal fees system is unlawful.

In R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor (Supreme Court), Unison's challenge to the employment tribunal's fees system succeeded at the final hurdle.

In a damning indictment of the use of high fees to reduce the number of cases,seven Supreme Court judges  decided unanimously  that the employment tribunal  fees system is  unlawful and the legislation that introduced the fees must be quashed.

The case has been described as one of the most important judgements in the history of UK employment law, and an important constitutional case,reiterating that the Government cannot use its powers to block citizens' access to justice.

It will now have to pay back around £32 million to claimants who have already been charged a fee since they were introduced in 2013.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Employment Appeal Tribunal Fees Order 2013,which allowed fees to be imposed in respect of proceedings in employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal,was unlawful, both at common law  and under European Union law,and indirectly discriminating, because it effectively prevented access to justice.

The decision begs important questions.Firstly,will the system of fees  be abolished completely or will a new fee structure be introduced taking in mind the Supreme Court's ruling? Secondly ,what about all those people who chose not to bring  a claim when a claimant was significantly impeded from doing so by an unlawful fees regime?

R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor (2017) UKSC

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Tribunal Fee Ruling Quashes Existing Regime

This morning The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal by Unison, holding that the Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunals Fees Order 2013 (which led to a 70% reduction in claims) is unlawful and will be quashed.

Fees for people bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful, meaning the government will (it has been suggested by the BBC) now have to repay £32m to claimants.

This has been the third challenge to the fee regime but this time Trade union Unison argued that the fees prevented workers getting access to justice. Apparently the comparable fees paid at the small claims court were considered relevant.

The Supreme Court also found fees were indirectly discriminatory to women.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Capability and the re-deployment argument

 The Claimant in this case was dismissed on the grounds of capability.She lost her claim of unfair dismissal after the ET found that the Respondent had a genuine belief that the Claimant's capability fell below a standard that they considered acceptable and she had not been dismissed for raising an issue of overwork.The Claimant appealed on the grounds that an employer should consider redeployment prior to making a decision to dismiss on capability grounds.

The EAT dismissed the appeal.The Employment Judge did not err in law in the way he approached the question whether the Respondent ought to have found redeployment for the Claimant after her dismissal on capability grounds.

Awojobi v London Borough of Lewisham UKEAT/0243/16/LA

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Self-incrimination and employment tribunal procedure examined

The Claimant was dismissed after the Respondent found he had been dishonest.He brought a claim of unfair dismissal at the ET. At the hearing,one of the Respondent's witnesses said they had heard that the police had referred his case to the CPS (although no criminal charges were ever brought).

The EJ decided that the Claimant should not give evidence because of the privilege against self-incrimination and he continued the case without the Claimant being cross-examined.He dismissed the claim and the Claimant appealed.

The EAT allowed the appeal.The Claimant's evidence,and cross examination apon it,was relevant to the issues the Employment Judge had to decide.He should not have proceeded without hearing it,and the Claimant's representative did not consent to that course.

The Employment Judge had not,however,been bound to adjourn the case.He could and should have waited to see if the Claimant  had claimed any privilege against self- incrimination and made an application to adjourn.He should have considered any application to adjourn having regard to the submissions of both parties.

Coletta v Bath Hill Court (Bournemouth) Management Co.Ltd. UKAET/0297?16/RN

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Psychometric Test Ruled Discriminatory

 Recruitment agencies will need to be careful about adjustments to the format of recruitment assessments for disabled job applicants,after a ruling by an EAT.The tribunal had ruled that an applicant with Asperger's syndrome was unfairly disadvantaged by an online multi-choice psychometric test.

The claim was brought by an aspiring lawyer, Ms Brookes, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome.She applied for a job as a trainee solicitor with the Government  Legal Service (GLS).

The application began with a "fiendishly competitive" online "situational judgment test (SJT).Ms Brookes asked if she could submit her answers in a short narrative form because of her condition. However,she was told that an alternative test format was not available.

Ms.Brookes completed the SJT test in its multiple-choice format and scored 12 out of 22.The pass mark to proceed to the next stage of the recruitment process was 14.

Her employment tribunal case included a claim for indirect  disability discrimination.The tribunal   accepted that the multi-choice format put her at a particular disadvantage because of her condition.

The GLS appealed against the decision,but the subsequent EAT accepted that her condition had affected her ability to complete the multiple choice assessment and that the GLS should have adapted the test for her.

The Government Legal Service v Brookes (2017)UKEAT 0302

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Claim struck out due to witness speaking to others during break

Reporter's Case Struck Out

A tribunal has struck out a BBC reporter's claim after finding that she discussed her case with  a newspaper journalist  during an adjournment when giving her evidence.The tribunal held that a BBC journalist,Sally Chidzoy's discussion with the journalist during a break in her evidence while still under oath was "unreasonable conduct" that justified her claim being struck out.

The tribunal concluded that a fair trial was no longer possible because it had lost all trust in the claimant.It also ruled out restarting the case with a different panel because the claimant had almost completed her evidence. Beginning again could lead to disputes over any changes in evidence given to the first and second tribunal.

Ms S Chidzoy v British Broadcasting Corporation. UKET 3400341/2016

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Type 2 Diabetes May be A Disability

The EAT has overturned an employment tribunal's decision that a man suffering from Type 2 diabetes was not disabled.The judge had not properly considered whether his Type 2 diabetes was a progressive condition.He should have considered whether the condition was likely to result in a substantial adverse effect on normal day to day activities and the medical evidence had been inadequate in this regard as it had not considered the future prognosis.

In Taylor v Ladbrokes Betting and Gaming,Mr Taylor suffered from Type 2 diabetes.He was dismissed and claimed disability discrimination. Based on written medical evidence,the employment judge ruled that he was not disabled.His condition was controlled by medication.The medical evidence also indicated that he could easily control his condition by means of lifestyle,diet and exercise.

Mr Taylor appealed to the EAT,who upheld his appeal and sent the case back to the employment tribunal to consider again.

Case reference:

Saturday, 18 March 2017

New Compensation Limits in Tribunals

The compensation limits for certain awards made in Employment Tribunals will increase from April 6th,2017. The increases apply to dismissals occurring on or after that date.

*The maximum compensation award for unfair dismissal increases from £78,926 to £80,541.

*The cap for a week's pay (used to calculate basic awards and statutory redundancy payments) increases from £479 to £489.

*The minimum award for certain unfair dismissal claims increases from £5,853 to £5,970.

If you are considering or are making redundancies (or maybe parting company with an employee by agreement) on or after April 6th,2017 you will need to make sure that you are using the correct cap for the weekly pay figure in your calculations.

New ACAS Guidance on Gig Economy

New guidance to help employers understand gig economy working has come from the Conciliation Service Acas.Its updated guidance outlines different types of employment status following recent high-profile  court judgements involving companies such as CitySprint and Uber.
Acas says its aim is to "provide some clarity on the various different types of ways that people can work and the employment rights that they are entitled to". Head of guidance at Acas,Stewart Gee,says:" Many businesses and their staff may not realise that a working person's employment rights  very much depends on their status.
"A person who is self-employed or defined as a worker is likely to have different legal rights to someone else who is considered an employee".
The guidance covers the three main types of employment status:employee,worker and self-employed.In the latter case,the guidance has been expanded to look at how the relationship works if someone operates through an umbrella company or agency.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Courier Wins Holiday Pay in Gig-economy Ruling

A cycle courier working for the delivery firm CitySprint has won the right to paid holidays and minimum pay after being wrongly classed as self-employed. A tribunal ruled that CitySprint had unlawfully failed to award holiday pay to Mags Dewhurst and had wrongly classed her as a self - employed freelancer.

Dewhurst,who has made deliveries for CitySprint for more than two years,does not receive a guaranteed wage ,sick pay or holiday pay,because the company considers her an independent contractor.The tribunal found that her formal employment classification should be as a worker , and,as such entitled to paid holiday,the national minimum wage and potentially sick pay.

Heavier Fines For Sexist Dress Codes?

Employers that enforce sexist dress codes could be in line for stricter punishment and fines,if the Government follows recommendations set out in a new report.

The report ,prepared jointly by the Women and Equalities Commission and the Petitions Commission, entitled High Heels and Workplace Dress Codes,recommends that the Government "takes urgent action to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act" and that employment tribunals should be able to ask for more effective remedies,such as financial penalties,for those employers who breach the law.

It says:"It is clear that there are not currently enough disincentives to prevent employers breaching the law. Penalties should be set at such a level as to ensure  that employees are not deterred from bringing claims,and to deter employers from breaching the regulations".

An enquiry was triggered last year by a receptionist,Nicola Thorp,who set up a parliamentary petition to make it illegal for companies to force employees to wear high heels to work.She had been sent home from work after being told it was her agency's "grooming policy" for women to wear two-to-four inch heels.Her petition received more that 150,000 signatures.