Employment Newsletter - Issue 16

3rd November 2021

Employment Newsletter - Issue 16

Focus on.. 

In this edition, we will be covering:

  • Changes to the Higgs LLP Employment Team;
  • Our Annual Webinar;
  • Our plans for keeping you informed; and 
  • Key case law update: tribunal erred in holding that an employee with menopausal symptoms was not disabled.

Team Update #1 - Changes to the Higgs LLP Employment Team

There have been exciting changes to the Employment Team in recent months.

The team is delighted to welcome back Senior Associate, Jayne Holliday. Jayne started working for Higgs LLP in 1989 as an office junior in the Employment team and progressed up the ranks,  qualifying as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2000. Jayne left the firm in 2011 and worked as an employer lawyer for other local firms and a large trade organisation, before returning to Higgs LLP in September 2021.

Jayne brings to the team her breadth of experience in employment law, from general day to day HR issues to more complex topics such as TUPE, immigration and trade union disputes. She advises on all aspects of the employment relationship from recruitment to performance management to termination of employment. Jayne also represents clients in both preliminary and full employment tribunal hearings.

The team is also pleased to share that Trainee Solicitor, Lucy Williams, will be qualifying into the team as an Associate in January 2022, having completed her training with the firm. Lucy will continue to assist the team as a Trainee as she progresses towards qualification. Lucy will specialise in advising on all aspects of employment law and HR best practise.

Jayne and Lucy join Head of Employment, Tim Jones, and Senior Associates, Debra Cottam, Joanne Walker and Katherine Cooke.

The team is sorry to see Emma Williams and Damian Kelly leave Higgs LLP, but wishes them all of the best for their futures.

Team Update #2 - Our Annual Seminar

Our annual employment update seminar will take place this year on zoom on 1 December 2021 at 10.00am to 11.30am and we would love to see you there.

We will be discussing the following topics:

  • continuing to manage Covid-19 in the work place and how to deal with common issues employers continue to face as a result of the pandemic;
  • how to recruit and retain staff during this period of movement in the job market; and
  • a general case law update.

 There will be a Q & A and a chance to discuss following the speakers’ sessions.

To register for this event, please click here.

Team Update #3 - Our plans for keeping you informed

We are looking to expand the ways in which we communicate our employment law updates to you. 

We will still continue with our monthly newsletter, but we plan to also deliver monthly webinars and podcasts to you on a key topic each month.

If you have any topics which you are especially interested in us discussing, or would be keen to know more about, please reply to this email with your suggestions and we might cover it in the coming months!

Legal Update #1 - Definition of disability: tribunal erred in holding that an employee with menopausal symptoms was not disabled

In Rooney v Leicester City Council, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that Ms Rooney should have been found to be disabled due to her menopausal symptoms.

Ms Rooney was a social worker for Leicester City Council and began to suffer with menopausal symptoms in 2017. When Ms Rooney was given a written warning for being off sick with work related stress, she felt her employer did not act fairly as they did not take her individual circumstances into account. Ms Rooney expressed that she felt embarrassed discussing her difficulties and symptoms, especially in the presence of male colleagues. Eventually, Ms Rooney resigned in October 2018 as a result of reduced confidence in the workplace and the detrimental impact to her self-esteem. Ms Rooney submitted several claims, including that she had suffered sex discrimination and disability discrimination as a result of her menopausal symptoms.

At a preliminary hearing, the Employment Tribunal found that her symptoms of insomnia (causing fatigue and exhaustion), stress, depression, anxiety, memory loss, hot flushes, migraines, light-headedness, confusion and palpitations did not constitute a disability, despite the fact that she had been experiencing the symptoms for two years. Ms Rooney appealed the decision.

 Upon appeal, the EAT considered the definition of disability (this broadly being that a person must have a physical or mental condition which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities). The EAT concluded that Ms Rooney should have been found to be disabled under the Equality Act 2010 on the basis that her symptoms were substantial because they were ‘more than minor or trivial’. Although Ms Rooney could carry out some normal day-to-day activities as she provided care to her Mother and her family, Ms Rooney forgot to attend events, meeting and appointments, she forgot to lock her car and house, and she also spent prolonged periods in bed due to fatigue and exhaustion. The EAT noted that “many people, including those with disabilities, have caring responsibilities” and this does not affect the analysis of whether she had a disability. The EAT also found that her symptoms were long term as they had persisted for longer than 12 months.

As one of the few binding judgments relating to the menopause, this case highlights to employers that menopausal symptoms may amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if the symptoms are substantial, effect an employee’s ability to carry out usual activities, and last or are likely to last for longer than 12 months.

We currently await the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee's inquiry into menopause in the workplace. It is expected that these will consider whether further legislation or guidance is necessary in order to protect menopausal women from discrimination at work.

We advise that employers understand the impact that the menopause can have on an employee’s performance, attendance record, and mental health. It can help to set out in a policy how the business can support staff experiencing menopausal symptoms. Please contact a member of the Employment Team if you require any advice or assistance in drafting such a policy.



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