Lancashire businesses that expect employees to work unpaid overtime could fall foul of sex discrimination laws and face heavy tribunal costs, warns leading Lancashire law firm Marsden Rawsthorn.
A recent case heard by the European Court of Justice concerned a part-time teacher whose employer operated a general policy to all workers that the first 5 hours overtime was unpaid. As she was contracted to work 23.5 hours as a part-time worker, she would in effect be working more hours than her full-time counterparts, but for less pay, if she were to work the required 5 hours overtime unpaid.
Employment law experts at Marsden Rawsthorn have pointed out that, if an employer introduces such a policy and it affects considerably more women than men they could be at significant risk of facing an indirect Sex Discrimination claim, unless they can justify it objectively.
The problem with this ruling is that no one would expect unpaid overtime to become a sex discrimination issue, said David Southern, Employment Law specialist at Marsden Rawsthorn. Combined with the fact that in some companies staying a little late to get the job done is simply part of the firms culture, it becomes very easy for an employer to inadvertently fall foul of the legislation and find themselves at a costly tribunal. In light of this recent case we are advising all our clients to review employees terms and conditions of employment to ensure there are no discrepancies at all between part-time and full-time workers.
Since the ruling recent research from the TUC has revealed that one in five workers in the UK work overtime unpaid, representing a significant increase of 103,000 in 2007 and bringing the total to almost 5 million. This equates to an average of almost £5,000 in lost wages.
To put these figures in perspective, the union organisation calculated that if everyone in the United Kingdom who worked unpaid overtime carried out all their unpaid work at the start of the year, they would not be paid a penny until February 22
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