January 2016 Employment Law Update


Zero Hours Contracts

With effect from 11 January 2016, employees engaged on “zero hours” contracts have specific protection from dismissal or unfair treatment in connection with refusing to with comply with an exclusivity clause in their contract.

ECHR NEWS: Can you read your employees private messages?

The European Court of Human Rights has held that there was no breach of the right to privacy when an employer read an employee’s personal messages that were sent whilst he was at work.

In this case, the employee was an engineer in Romania and had been asked to set up a Yahoo messenger account for the business. He subsequently used this to send personal messages. The company had previously banned staff from sending personal messages during work times. After accessing what the Company believed to be a work related account and finding a number of personal messages, the employee was dismissed following a disciplinary process for breaching the company’s regulations on personal messages.

The employee contended that the company had violated his right to private correspondence, but the domestic court held that the company had acted within its disciplinary powers, as the company had accessed the account on the assumption that this was a work based account. In addition, the employee was well aware of the company’s internal policy on personal messages as he initially denied he had sent any. The domestic court therefore dismissed the employee’s complaint.

The employee then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the basis that his right to respect for private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated. The ECHR held that the Company’s actions were proportionate, given that no other information stored on the employee’s computer was investigated into and the investigation had therefore struck a fair balance between the company’s interests and the employee’s right to respect for his private life.

It is worth highlighting that the device used to send the messages was the company’s and the question remains open as to whether the same judgement would be given if the device belonged to the employee. It also underlines the importance of communicating internal policies to employees.


PENSIONS: Auto-enrolment consultation

The DWP has published a consultation paper on technical changes to simplify the auto-enrolment process, which remains open for comments until 16 February 2016: Click here

There are also draft regulations proposed for simplifying the process for bringing staging dates forward and to look at further exceptions for company directors and Limited Liability Partnerships.


ACAS recently published a new guide to help employers prevent disability discrimination in the workplace. It includes comments designed to assist with understanding the meaning of disability and how to manage complaints. You can access this information here

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