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20 March 2024 | Employment Grandstand Seminar, Newcastle

<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Successful Litigation for Employment Practitioners: Practical Guidance and Useful Tips</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Parklane Plowden Chambers would be delighted if you would join our employment team specialists on the 20th March 2024 for an afternoon of talks giving practical guidance and useful tips on running a successful employment tribunal litigation. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Location: </strong><a href="https://www.bing.com/maps?mepi=101%7EDirections%7EUnknown%7EDirection_Button&amp;ty=0&amp;rtp=pos.54.97492980957031_-1.6094900369644165__Laing+Art+Gallery__e_%7E&amp;mode=d&amp;v=2&amp;sV=1&amp;cp=54.974913%7E-1.609465&amp;lvl=14.5">Laing Art Gallery</a><br>New Bridge Street<br>Newcastle Upon Tyne<br>NE1 8AG</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Time:</strong> 12:00 - 16:30</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>We are offering an early bird price of <strong>£50pp</strong> when registering to this event until the <strong>26 February 2024</strong>. Tickets will be <strong>£75pp</strong> after this date. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Programme</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>12:00 - 12:55 | Lunch and Refreshments</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>12:55 - 13:00 | Welcome</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>13:00 - 13:30 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/andrew-sugarman/">Andrew Sugarman</a> - How to win in the Employment Tribunal: top 10 tips</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>13:30 - 14:00 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/claire-millns/">Claire Millns</a> - Mastering the virtual maze: a guide to efficiently handling employment tribunal claims via the online portal</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>14:00 - 14:30 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/robert-dunn/">Robert Dunn </a>&amp; <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/robert-allen-pupil/">Robert Allen</a> - Case choreography and preliminary pizzazz: tips on navigating a CMPH</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>14:30 - 14:45 | Break</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>14:45 - 15:15 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/bryony-clayton/">Bryony Clayton</a> - The limits of open justice: anonymity and privacy issues in the tribunal</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>15:15 - 15:45 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/nicola-twine/">Nicola Twine</a> - Striking the balance: when to apply (and when not to), strike out and deposit orders</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>15:45 - 16:15 | <a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/our-barristers/bethan-davies/">Bethan Davies</a> - It’s all in the words: maximising your witness statements</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>16:15 - 16:30 | Questions and closing remarks</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Lunch and refreshments will be served from 12pm with speakers starting at 13:00 until 16:30. Guests will then be welcome to join us in Chambers at Portland House for drinks.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>If you are interested in attending please <a href="https://lexlinks.parklaneplowden.co.uk/doForm.aspx?a=0xF15D4A97E0E04123&amp;d=0x49EB4C9596DBE1A5^0xBDC0B87423493533|0x40F3E49C83A12815^0xAF1BA1DD83354AE1|0xF1B146662D144B75^0x8A1CDD2DB76555E3|0x9CB58EF48012E032^0x75E2A344A6368118|0xA14B30AADF25AF0D^0x4538EA01547C6D9520542FC6B6F63C93|0x43D48F22BB6859DF^0x75E2A344A6368118|0xD52134AC788FF0FE^0xAF1BA1DD83354AE1|">sign up here</a>. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->

Bathgate v Technip [2023] CSIH: Broadening the scope of Qualifying Settlement Agreements

<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>As all employment lawyers know, in order to protect them from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers, employees cannot ordinarily contract out of their employment rights.&nbsp;There are only two exceptions.&nbsp; They can do so in a contract of settlement made with the assistance of ACAS, known as a ‘COT3’, or they can do so in ‘qualifying settlement agreement’, but not otherwise.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>I recently came across the notes for a talk I gave back in 2006 in which I confidently stated that one of the differences between a COT3 and a qualifying settlement agreement (or a compromise agreement as they were then called), was that a COT3 could compromise claims arising out of future conduct whereas a qualifying settlement agreement could not.&nbsp; Following the recent Court of Session judgment in <strong><em>Bathgate v Technip </em></strong>[2023] CSIH 48, however, it appears that my confidence was misplaced.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Legal Background</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Since at least the House of Lords decision in <strong><em>BCCI v Ali </em></strong>[2001] ICR 337,it has been clear that parties can use a COT3 to compromise claims that have not even come into existence, although as Lord Bingham put it ‘If the parties had sought to achieve so extravagant a result they should in my opinion have used language which left no room for doubt’.&nbsp;That is because there is nothing to stop parties at common law from contracting out of future rights; and in order to fall into the ‘COT3’ exception, the only stipulation is that the agreement is ‘made with the assistance of ACAS’.&nbsp;In other words, any otherwise contractually enforceable agreement made with the assistance of ACAS will work; a point well illustrated in the context of post-employment victimisation in <strong><em>Arvunescu v Quick Release </em></strong>[2022] EWCA Civ 1600.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>It is slightly different with qualifying settlement agreements.&nbsp;To come within that exception there are a number of hoops that have to cleared, one of which is that the agreement must ‘relate to the particular complaint’.&nbsp;It might be thought that for an agreement to relate to ‘the particular complaint’ then the particular complaint must be capable of being in existence at the time the agreement is signed.&nbsp;That certainly was the view of the EAT in <strong><em>Lunt v Merseyside TEC Ltd</em></strong> [1999] ICR 17, when it said:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>'A compromise agreement cannot, therefore, seek to exclude potential complaints that have not yet arisen on the off-chance that they might be raised; it cannot, in other words, be used to sign away all the employee's tribunal rights, as can be done in the case of a negotiated settlement drawn up with the assistance of a conciliation officer.'</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>That also seems to have been the intention behind the statutory provisions, given the comments of Viscount Ullswater when he introduced the relevant statutory provisions in the House of Lords:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>'We are proposing that these procedures should only be available in the context of an agreement which settles a particular complaint that has already arisen between the parties to that complaint.'</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>That too was Lord Summers’s view when <strong><em>Bathgate</em></strong> was in the Scottish EAT.&nbsp;Drawing from the judgments of Mummery and Smith LJJ in <strong><em>University of East London v Hinton </em></strong>[2005] ICR 1260, that the broad purpose behind the legislation was to protect employees from relinquishing their rights; he concluded that the requirement that a settlement agreement ‘relates to the particular complaint’ could never be met in relation to a cause of action which had not emerged at the time of the agreement.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>The Judgment of the Court of Session</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Needless to say, the Court of Session came to the opposite conclusion. It reasoned that if Parliament had intended to lay down rules limiting parties’ freedom of contract, it would have expressed them in clear and unequivocal terms; and it had not done so. In its view, all that the words ‘relate to the particular complaint’ required was that the complaint being made was covered by the terms of the contract. It could see no justification for putting a temporal limit on what could be compromised by a settlement agreement, when none existed for a COT3. On a natural reading of the settlement agreement signed by Mr Bathgate, future claims for age discrimination were covered. Accordingly his age discrimination claim, which arose out of conduct which post-dated that agreement, had been validly compromised even before the discriminatory conduct had occurred.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Comment</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>With respect to the Court of Session, its reasons do not seem to me to be entirely convincing. Firstly, it is abundantly clear that Parliament <em>was</em> laying down rules to limit parties’ freedom to contract. It does that in terms at section 144(1) of the Equality Act 2010. The section the Court was interpreting is an exception to that general prohibition, it is not itself a limitation to the right to contract.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Secondly, on one reading of the Court of Session analysis, the statutory requirement for the agreement to ‘relate to the particular complaint’ is entirely superfluous. If the agreement does not ‘relate to the particular complaint’ in the sense used by the Court of Session, then as a matter of contract it will not compromise the complaint. Surely Parliament intended something more by those words than a bland restatement of the obvious. Indeed, I do wonder whether the ubiquitous list of UK employment rights (which Smith LJ had warned against in <strong><em>Hinton</em></strong>) is really quite what Parliament had in mind either. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Thirdly, and perhaps most compellingly, on the Court of Session analysis, the central purpose of the prohibition on contracting out would seem to be undermined. On its analysis, there is nothing to prevent an unscrupulous employer from asking an employee (after advice from an insured lawyer and presumably some form of payment) to sign away their employment rights pre-emptively during the course of their employment. Surely it is that evil that the ‘particular complaint’ requirement was designed to prevent. By definition, ACAS will not become involved until a dispute has arisen, so there is less need for a similar protection in respect of a COT3. But that is not the case with legal advisors. Without some sort of safeguard, they could be brought in to give advice on the waiver of employment rights, even as the ink is drying on the employment contract. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Court of Session is not technically binding in England and Wales, but its decisions are highly persuasive; and unless and until the issue is revisited by the Court of Appeal, it is likely to be followed. In the meantime, and out of an abundance of caution, I will still be advising employers to utilise a COT3 if they wish to be confident of compromising any claims arising out of future conduct.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/barristers/dominic-bayne"><em>Dominic Bayne</em></a><em>&nbsp;acted for Mr Bathgate before the EAT and at first instance.&nbsp;He is joint head of&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.parklaneplowden.co.uk/expertise/employment"><em>PLP’s employment team</em></a><em>, and is recognised by the directories as one of the leading employment barristers on the North Eastern Circuit.</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->

Holiday Pay: Where are we now?

<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Introduction</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In 2022, <a href="https://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2022/21.html"><em>Harpur Trust v Brazel [2022] UKSC 21</em></a> brought unwelcome news for employers who had become accustomed to applying a pro-rata percentage to workers’ annual leave entitlement.&nbsp; More recently, in <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2019-0204-judgment.pdf"><em>Chief Constable of Police Service of Northern Ireland and Another v Agnew and Others [2023] UKSC 33</em></a>, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the different types of leave (see below) all form part of a composite ‘pot’.&nbsp; In November 2023, the Government has produced draft regulations aimed at simplifying matters (<a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2023/9780348253269/contents">The Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2023</a>) (“the Draft Regulations”).&nbsp; So where exactly does this leave us?</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Calculating Holiday Pay for Part-Year Workers</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>Harper Trust v Brazel</em> was a blow for many employers with workers who did not work the full number of weeks in the year.&nbsp; Employers like Harper Trust have been calculating 12.07% of the total number of hours worked, then multiplying this by the hourly rate.&nbsp; That, however, failed to take account of accumulation of leave during weeks that were not worked.&nbsp; In a nutshell, the Supreme Court held that this ‘Proportion Method’ was not compatible with the requirements of the ERA 1996.&nbsp; Accordingly, it held that the ‘Calendar Method’ is appropriate: working out the total number of hours worked over the reference period, <em>excluding </em>any full weeks where no work was done.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Government has now proposed legislation in response to this judgment.  The Draft Regulations are expected to come into force on 1 January 2024 but, in respect of holiday, will only affect holiday years beginning on or after 1 April 2024.  The Draft Regulations permit employers to calculate accrual as 12.07% of hours worked during the pay period (new Regulation 15B of the WTR.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Agnew</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The focus of the <em>Agnew</em> judgment was, not surprisingly, on whether a break of three months between holiday pay underpayments prevents an underpayment being part of a ‘series’ (it does not).&nbsp; However, towards the end of the judgment the Supreme Court turned its attention to the different types of annual leave and whether leave must be taken in a particular sequence.&nbsp; As is widely known, under Regulation 13 of the WTR, workers are entitled to 4 weeks’ annual leave, derived from the minimum leave requirement set out in the Working Time Directive [2003/88/EC] (“the Directive”).&nbsp; The further 1.6 weeks’ entitlement is set out in Regulation 13A of the WTR.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The distinction between the different entitlements is not academic.&nbsp; It makes a difference on carry over of leave.&nbsp; One can also, for example, consider what constitutes a week’s pay under Regulation 16 of the WTR.&nbsp; According to <a href="https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2004/359.html"><em>Bamsey and Others v Albon Engineering and Manufacturing PLC [2004] EWCA Civ 359</em></a>, section 234 of the ERA 1996 is applicable and excluding voluntary overtime was lawful.&nbsp; However the Court of Appeal has held that, so far as EU law (i.e. the Directive) is concerned, ‘normal pay’ does not require payments to be compulsory under the contract (<a href="https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2019/947.html"><em>East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust v Neil Flowers and others [2019] EWCA Civ 947</em></a><em>)</em>.&nbsp; Caselaw therefore suggests that for leave derived from the Directive (Regulation 13), overtime can be taken into account if regular and/or recurring, whereas Regulation 13A requires it to be contractually guaranteed by the employer and compulsory for the employee.&nbsp; The approach in <em>Flowers </em>is reflected in the Draft Regulations. In a new Regulation 16(3ZA), in respect of entitlement under Regulations 13 of the WTR and (the new) Regulation 15B, a week’s pay includes (amongst other things) overtime payments which have been paid regularly in the 52 weeks preceding the calculation date.&nbsp;</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Is Regulation 13 and 13A leave to be taken in sequence or considered as a ‘composite pot’? According to <em>Agnew</em>, <em>“a worker is entitled to enjoy leave from whichever legal source it may be derived and that there is no requirement as a matter of law that the leave derived from different sources must be taken in a particular order”</em>.&nbsp; Furthermore, <em>“workers are likely to look at their annual leave entitlement as a composite whole”</em>.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This does leave employers with a potential headache.&nbsp; They could simply operate a ‘composite pot’ in its simplest form: treating all leave the same, no matter the source.&nbsp; This, however, would require them to afford workers with the more generous aspects across the board (see calculation of a week’s pay, above), regardless of the source of the leave.&nbsp; Alternatively, employers could consider treating the different aspects as they have been, but combining the leave itself into a pot and dividing it between the different types of leave each time that entitlement is exercised.&nbsp; That, however, might be an administrative nightmare.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The solution may lie in paragraph 137 of the judgment: <em>“if <strong>and in</strong> <strong>so far as it is not practicable to distinguish between different types of leave</strong> then all the leave to which the worker is entitled must form part of a single, composite pot…”</em> [emphasis added].&nbsp; When does it become practicable to distinguish? That remains to be seen, and the judgment offers no guidance.&nbsp; Clear contractual clauses <em>may </em>be sufficient, setting out the entitlement, its source, how it is to be treated, and in what order it must be taken.&nbsp; It seems that firm contractual direction is going to be the minimum required by Tribunal’s following <em>Agnew</em>.&nbsp;</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>And in Other News</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The draft Regulations permit rolled up holiday for irregular hours or part-year workers, if holiday pay is calculated at 12.07% of all pay for work done, if the additional 12.07% is paid at the same time as pay for the work done, and if the holiday pay is itemised separately (new Regulation 16A).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->

Gender reassignment protection within the Equality Act 2010

<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In a week where the Home Secretary suggested that fearing discrimination for being gay in one’s country of origin should not be sufficient to qualify for asylum, it seems a fitting time to review how the Equality Act 2010 protects those within the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. This article will focus on the protection afforded to those with the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment.’</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>The Equality Act 2010</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Protection for individuals who are transgender is conferred by Section 7 of the Equality Act 2010 which makes ‘gender reassignment’ a protected characteristic.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There are a few points to note at the outset:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list {"ordered":true,"type":"1"} --> <ol type="1"><!-- wp:list-item --> <li>The language of ‘gender reassignment’ within the anti-discrimination provisions originates in 1999. Awareness, understanding, and discussions around sex and gender identity have changed significantly since then.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>The Equality Act uses ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>The Equality Act uses the term ‘transsexual’ to refer to an individual who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. That term is now largely considered outdated, and this article will use the term ‘transgender’ instead.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>When it comes to the definition of ‘sex,’ the Equality Act 2010 does <strong><u>not</u></strong> define it as ‘biological sex’.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --></ol> <!-- /wp:list --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>What does ‘gender reassignment’ mean?</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>S.7(1) of the Equality Act defines a person who possesses the protected characteristic of gender reassignment as follows:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>‘If the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex’</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The definition is a wide one. It includes individuals who have not yet taken any steps and are simply ‘proposing’ to take steps. It also makes it clear that reassigning one's sex is a process and that individuals on any part of that process will be protected. There is no requirement that a Gender Recognition Certificate should be obtained before an individual meets the definition. Finally, interestingly, the definition refers to ‘physiological <strong>or other attributes</strong> of sex’ which indicates an acceptance that sex is not entirely physiological.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Trans individuals are therefore protected from being discriminated against because they are trans. To take an example, an individual who is taken off client-facing duties shortly after informing their employer that they are trans will be able to bring a claim for direct gender reassignment discrimination. That individual has been subject to less favourable treatment (being removed from client-facing duties) because of their protected characteristic of gender reassignment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There is also protection from harassment. Trans individuals who are subjected to offensive comments about their appearance, identity, choice of clothing, or anything related to gender reassignment will be able to bring claims under the Equality Act for harassment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Much was made of the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision to find that ‘gender-critical beliefs’ qualified as a protected belief under s.10 of the Equality Act. However, there is a distinction between holding such a belief and being permitted to manifest it. An employer cannot subject an individual with gender-critical beliefs to less favourable treatment because they hold those beliefs, but that does not mean that the individual is permitted to express those beliefs in a way which would constitute direct discrimination or harassment of a trans individual.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This was demonstrated in <strong><em>Mackereth v Department for Work and Pensions [2022]</em></strong>. A Christian employee believed in the truth of the Bible, from which it followed that he believed people could not change their sex or gender. He refused to use the preferred pronouns of transgender service users. After discussions with the DWP, he left his employment.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the claim of religion/belief discrimination. It held that the Claimant’s refusal to use preferred pronouns was distinct from his gender-critical beliefs. The reason that the DWP had subjected the Claimant to disciplinary action was not because he held gender-critical beliefs, but because he was not prepared to treat service users in the manner required by the DWP. Any employee who refused to do that would have been disciplined, regardless of their views.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>What about non-binary and genderfluid individuals?</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>There was initially some concern that the Equality Act did not include people who were genderfluid or non-binary, due to its use of the language ‘gender reassignment’ rather than ‘gender identity.’ However, in <strong><em>Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover [2020],</em> </strong>which is the only reported case to address the interpretation of s.7 of the Equality Act, the Tribunal held that:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>“Parliament intended gender reassignment to be a spectrum moving away from birth sex, and that a person could be at any point on that spectrum. That would be so whether they described themselves as “non-binary” i.e. not at point A or point Z, “gender fluid” i.e. at different places between point A and point Z at different times, or “transitioning” i.e. moving from point A, but not necessarily ending at point Z, where A and Z are biological sex.”</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Case Law</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This article looks at two cases which touch on the entitlement for trans people to access bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. Those cases are <strong><em>Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover [2020] </em></strong>and <strong><em>Croft v Royal Mail Group [2003]. </em></strong>In both cases, the Claimant was a transgender woman who was told to use the disabled toilet facilities, rather than the women’s toilets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In <strong><em>Taylor, </em></strong>there was a successful claim that being told to use the disabled toilets constituted direct discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment. In <strong><em>Croft, </em></strong>the Claimant was refused access to the women’s toilets and was instead asked to use a disabled unisex toilet. A claim for direct discrimination failed.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Croft v Royal Mail Group Plc [2003] EWCA Civ 1045</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>This claim preceded the Equality Act and was brought instead under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. That Act prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment in essentially identical wording to the Equality Act. However, in the Sex Discrimination Act, gender reassignment was defined differently (perhaps reflective of mainstream understanding at the time):</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>“‘Gender reassignment’ means <strong>a process which is undertaken under medical supervision</strong> for the purpose of reassigning a person's sex by changing physiological or other characteristics of sex and includes any part of such a process.”</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Claimant in <strong><em>Croft </em></strong>had been receiving treatment from her psychiatrist, who had confirmed that she was suffering from ‘gender identity disorder, male to female transsexualism.’ The Claimant was proposing to do a real-life test and live as a woman to ensure that it was the correct way for her to proceed. The Claimant had changed her name and was taking ‘feminising’ hormones. The Claimant was asked to use the unisex disabled toilets, but she wanted to use the women’s toilets. Her employer took the view that they needed to establish the medical position to see if the Claimant had undergone surgery before they would allow her to use the female toilets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>On behalf of the Claimant, Dinah Rose KC made submissions that were surprising given that it was 2003, being couched in language that is much more familiar today with the increasing awareness of the complexity and interplay between sex and gender. One of the submissions was that, save for exceptional circumstances contemplated in the legislation (which did not arise in this case), anatomical or biological sex was of no concern to the Respondent. The Respondent’s only concern was with social gender i.e. the sex in which employees present themselves. A person who lives and dresses as a woman has changed her name to a female name and sounds and looks like a woman must be treated in the workplace as a woman. There was no room for intrusive medical examination. Biological sex should remain private and there was no need for the Respondent to be informed of it.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Court of Appeal seemed troubled by the situation. It commented that it was unacceptable to hold that the Claimant must continue to use the men’s toilets but stated that it was also unacceptable to allow a person, known to the workforce as a man for many years, and with male genitals, an immediate right to use the female toilets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Court concluded that having the protected characteristic of gender reassignment did not automatically entitle the Claimant to be treated as a woman with respect to toilet facilities. Instead, it said that such a right was acquired by making progress in the procedure of transitioning (described at the time as psychiatric assessment, hormonal treatment, a period of living as a member of the opposite sex subject to professional supervision therapy (‘the real-life test’), and in suitable cases, gender reassignment surgery).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Court of Appeal held that the Tribunal ‘has to make a judgment as to when the employee becomes a woman and entitled to the same facilities as other women’ although regard must be had to the Claimant’s self-definition. It held:</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><em>‘It is in my judgment inherent in a situation in which two sets of facilities, male and female, are required and in which a category of persons changing from one sex to the other is recognised, that there must be a period during which the employer is entitled to make separate arrangements for those undergoing the change.’</em></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>&nbsp;It went on to hold that for the Claimant, who had reached the ‘real life test’ stage of the process, it was not unlawful to continue to require her to use separate facilities.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Comment</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The notion that it is for Employment Tribunals to determine when a transgender woman has ‘become a woman’ is troubling. The first-instance Tribunal had held that for the purposes of the Sex Discrimination Act, a change of sex only occurs ‘when the final operation to change the physical characteristics is performed.’ That would strip much of the protection away from those undergoing gender reassignment and would be entirely at odds with the position under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>One of the submissions made on behalf of the Respondent was that a ‘voyeur or transvestite’ might assert that they identify as a woman in order to gain access to the women’s bathroom. Those familiar with arguments made by those in favour of excluding trans individuals from same-sex spaces will recognise the submission. It is countered in many ways, including by the recognition that a sign on a door is unlikely to prevent a voyeur from gaining access should they wish to.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The point that jumps out from the judgment is that it is not entirely clear why the claim fails. There is reference to the Respondent’s actions being appropriate, reasonable, and responsible. The difficulty is none of that is relevant for the purposes of a direct discrimination claim. The only factors to be considered as part of such a claim are: (1) was the Claimant treated less favourably; (2) was that because of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment? There was no doubt that the Claimant possessed the characteristic of gender reassignment and that the reason she had been told to use the disabled toilet was because of that characteristic.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In terms of whether or not the treatment was less favourable, the Court of Appeal found, effectively, that if the Respondent continued to act as it was, then its actions would become discriminatory. That suggests that the Court’s view was that telling the Claimant to use the disabled toilet would be less favourable treatment in the future but was not less favourable treatment in the present. That is a confusing conclusion to follow in circumstances when there is no doubt that somebody without the protected characteristic would not have been told to act in the same way.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover 1304471/2018</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>In <strong><em>Taylor</em></strong>, the Claimant described herself as ‘gender fluid’ and ‘transitioning’ but made clear that she had no intention to undergo surgery. Whilst employed by the Respondent, she did not change her name to a female name. Her manager told her to use the disabled toilets instead of the women’s toilets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Tribunal found that the manager’s comment constituted direct gender reassignment discrimination. The reasoning of the Tribunal was simple: ‘a person who was not transitioning would not have been treated that way.’</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The Tribunal commented that telling a transitioning person to use the disabled toilets is, at the very least, potentially offensive to them because it suggests that their protected characteristic equates to a disability. There also seemed to be implied criticism of an email from the Respondent informing the Claimant that she should use whichever toilets she felt comfortable using each day. The ET reflected that that put the onus on the Claimant to decide which toilets to use and to deal with any challenges made by colleagues who were unhappy with her choice.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Comment</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The decision must be right. The comparison for the purposes of a direct discrimination claim must be with an individual in the same material circumstances as the Claimant but who was not transitioning. There was no doubt that an individual in those circumstances would not have been told to use the disabled toilets.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p><strong>Discussion/thinking points</strong></p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:list {"ordered":true} --> <ol><!-- wp:list-item --> <li><strong><em>Croft </em></strong>was decided before the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed. In <strong><em>Croft, </em></strong>the judgment of Lord Nicholls in <strong><em>Bellinger v Bellinger </em></strong>where he states, <em>‘Individuals cannot choose for themselves whether they wish to be known or treated as male or female. Self-definition is not acceptable’</em> is cited with approval. Given that self-ID, at least in Scotland, is now sufficient for an individual to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, there is an argument that <strong><em>Croft </em></strong>would be decided differently today.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>The Equality Act is unclear when it comes to sex discrimination claims by transgender individuals. Once an individual has a Gender Recognition Certificate, they are to be treated for all purposes as a member of the acquired sex. So for example, a transgender woman with a GRC could undoubtedly bring a sex discrimination claim and rely upon her sex as a woman. Some may argue that the legal sex of a transgender woman without a GRC is male, and so a similar sex discrimination claim could not be brought. Others would point to <strong><em>A v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police [2004] UKHL 21 </em></strong>which held that a trans woman who was <em>‘visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from non-transsexual members of that gender’</em> was to be treated as a woman. The decision commented on the Gender Recognition Act, which was passed through Parliament at the time, stating: ‘<em>In policy terms, therefore, the view has been taken that trans people properly belong to the gender in which they live.’</em></li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>Critics of the Gender Recognition Act may well point out that the Act itself falls somewhat short of achieving that policy aim, given the criteria for obtaining a GRC, including a need for two medical reports from different doctors. Notably, one of those reports has to be from a specialist in gender dysphoria. In the 2021 census, 262,000 people in England and Scotland identified as transgender. At the time of this Article, according to the government’s official list, there were 77 gender dysphoria specialists in England and only 7 in Scotland.</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --> <!-- wp:list-item --> <li>The issue over entitlement to single-sex spaces is focused overwhelmingly on trans women accessing women’s spaces. There is virtually no discussion over trans men accessing men’s spaces. For a direct sex discrimination claim brought by a trans woman prevented from accessing a woman’s space, can the argument be made that the comparator should be a trans man trying to access a men’s space?</li> <!-- /wp:list-item --></ol> <!-- /wp:list -->