Clients have always been interested in ensuring they can recruit and retain the best talent, irrespective of background. Whilst the focus has traditionally been on the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, firms are increasingly looking at eliminating prejudice stemming from other sources as well. In a fascinating recent report, the Sutton Trust has examined accent discrimination, with an alarming number of survey respondents reporting that their accents had been mocked or singled out by colleagues at work. In the second episode of our new podcast series, Chris Boyle joins Matthew Ramsey in exploring how employers can engage with issues of class, socio-economic background and accent.
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|Current position||Reform proposal|
|Qualifying period of service before application may be made||26 weeks||None – this will become a "day-one" right|
|Number of requests that can be made in a 12-month period||One||Two|
|Grounds on which request may be refused|| Burden of additional costs
Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
Inability to re-organise work among existing staff
Inability to recruit additional staff
Detrimental effect on quality
Detrimental impact on performance
Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
Planned structural changes
|Requirement to consult employee before reaching decision||No – although the Acas guidance and Code of Practice in this area strongly recommends consultation||Yes|
|Time limit to complete the decision-making process||Three months||Two months|
Copyright and confidential information
Clients typically look to post-termination restrictive covenants and confidentiality provisions to protect their business-critical information and clients. What is often overlooked is the additional protection that can be offered by intellectual property law: copyright, patents, trademarks, databases and so on. A recent High Court decision exemplifies this. A number of employees of a business that manufactures and services environmental test chambers set up a competing enterprise that looked to service those chambers. In doing so, they systematically made use of their ex-employers software, passwords and client lists. They were not subject to post-termination restrictive covenants, although their contracts did contain confidentiality clauses. The court found a number of confidentiality breaches, as well as a number of breaches of copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright can extend to computer software programmes, and an infringement can occur by copying, storing electronically or publishing the copyright material. The court also found a breach of the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997, under which the creator of a database can assert ownership of it, whether or not the material within the database is itself confidential. Restrictive covenant litigation often focuses on whether client and customer lists are truly confidential. Here, that debate was unnecessary as an effective remedy was available through this alternative database claim.