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11th June 2021
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Woman wins tribunal appeal over transgender tweets
A woman who lost her job after saying that people cannot change their biological sex has won an appeal against an employment tribunal. Maya Forstater did not have her contract renewed after posting tweets on gender recognition. She lost her original case at a tribunal in 2019, but a High Court judge ruled her "gender-critical" beliefs fell under the Equalities Act. She claimed she was discriminated against because of her beliefs, which include "that sex is immutable and not to be conflated with gender identity." In the initial tribunal, employment judge James Tayler said that her approach was "not worthy of respect in a democratic society." But the Honourable Mr Justice Choudhury said her "gender-critical beliefs" did fall under the Equalities Act as they "did not seek to destroy the rights of trans persons." Baroness Falkner, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the case was important because "Some may see the beliefs of others as questionable or controversial, but people must be free to hold them.” Monica Kurnatowska, employment partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said the ruling meant that "individuals are entitled not to be discriminated against because of gender critical beliefs . . . and gives those beliefs the same legal protection as religious beliefs, environmental beliefs and ethical veganism. Employers will be watching closely for any guidance on how to handle employee conflict fairly and lawfully, while respecting the rights of all involved.”
Morrisons boss suffers huge pay revolt
Shareholders in Morrisons have voted against plans to award bumper pay deals to the supermarket's bosses. Just over 70% of shareholder votes were cast against the firm's remuneration proposals, which include paying CEO David Potts a maximum £1.7m bonus despite profits plunging to £165m last year, from £435m the previous year. He was awarded a total pay package in the year to 31 January worth up to £4.2m, including the bonus. He made just under £4m the year before. The firm's remuneration committee had upgraded the chief's payout after it stripped out the cost of the pandemic when calculating whether a bonus would be appropriate. Shareholder advisory group Pirc said the revolt was one of the biggest on record. In assessing pay and bonuses, Morrisons said its remuneration committee felt that management should not be penalised by the costs of the crisis. It also pointed out that Mr Potts waived a basic salary increase for a sixth straight year.

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John Lewis staff to be given equal right to parenthood leave
The John Lewis Partnership is to offer equal parenthood leave and paid leave for employees who experience the loss of a pregnancy. The employee-owned company is the first UK retailer to introduce the measures. All John Lewis partners who have worked for the company for more than a year will receive 26 weeks of paid leave with 14 weeks at full pay and 12 weeks at 50% pay. The company said that it would also give two weeks’ paid leave to any partner who suffered the loss of a pregnancy. Dame Sharon White, John Lewis chair, said: “As an employee-owned business, equality matters to us. We want John Lewis and Waitrose to be a place for everyone and for people from all walks of life to feel valued so they can thrive in our business.”
BA puts thousands of staff back on furlough
British Airways is to place thousands of staff back on furlough as the company awaits a meaningful return to international travel. The carrier has already cut more than 8,000 jobs in a bid to cut costs amid the worst downturn in aviation history. BA had begun to bring people back ahead of the easing of restrictions on foreign holidays on 17 May, but only a small number of countries have been put on the government's green list. Moreover, official advice remains not to visit amber countries for leisure, leaving the travel industry almost at a standstill.
GE to freeze pension benefits for 2,700 UK employees
General Electric has announced that it will freeze pension benefits for around 2,700 UK employees from January 2022. As a result, the company said it will record a non-cash curtailment charge in the second quarter of 2021. GE said that affected employees will automatically be enrolled into the company’s existing defined contribution scheme. City AM notes that GE’s pension benefit obligation in the UK was about $14bn at the end of 2020.
BrewDog boss under attack for 'toxic' workplace culture
The UK's largest craft brewer has come under fire from over 60 former employees who say in an open letter to founder and CEO James Watt that the businesses had created a culture of fear that made staff feel afraid to speak out. In their letter to BrewDog, they claim workers have been subject to harassment, assault and treated "like objects" and that Watt had “become a lightning rod for some of the worst attitudes present on both the internet, and in real life."
BBVA to cut nearly 3,000 jobs in Spain
Bilbao-headquartered lender BBVA is to lay off 2,935 employees in Spain, around 12.6% of its banking workforce in its domestic market, after reaching an agreement with the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) union. "The adjustment plan is necessary to ensure the competitiveness and sustainability of future employment in the entity given the current context of profound transformation of the financial sector," BBVA said. In April, the bank said it was planning to cut 3,798 jobs to adapt to increased online banking. CCOO said that some of its demands, including the implementation of any cuts through voluntary redundancies, were met.
Skills minister restates stance on apprenticeship levy funding
Skills minister Gillian Keegan is standing firm on her position that apprenticeship levy funding should only be used for apprenticeships, saying it has proven to be the best way to build a “solid” skills pipeline. Organisations including the Confederation of British Industry had hoped to fund a wider array of training with the levy. Keegan said her stance was a response to the “madness” of organisations recruiting people and building “skills pipelines” from overseas, instead of using home grown talent. “When I look at what the apprenticeship levy has actually done,” she told delegates at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers national conference, “it has forced a shift in how employers work with the Department for Education and training providers to build the skills pipeline.” She said the sector and government had “lost focus” on a skills pipeline for British workers, compared to 20 or 30 years ago, due to “lots of global movements, lots of talents available from other countries.” She said British employers had “largely relied on  . . . bringing in global talent to fulfil many of our skills gaps,” but with the pandemic and related global talent shortages, that approach “isn’t going to work, so we have to build really solid skills pipelines in this country, and we owe that actually also to the people of this country to do that.”
Tax reforms result in a net loss for the UK
Analysis by Tax Watch contends that the G7 agreement on a global minimum corporation tax rate will see lower UK tax bills for US tech giants. The think tank concluded that the tax rate for Amazon, Facebook, Google and eBay from Pillar One – which is aimed at making firms pay tax in the countries where they have users - would be below or at the same level as their current UK tax liabilities. But with the local Digital Services Tax removed, the overall effect would be a tax cut. Pillar Two - the 15% global minimum corporate tax rate - will enable the UK to collect more tax from its own large corporations, but will have no impact on US-based companies, Tax Watch argues. Tax Watch is a UK charity that says it is "dedicated to compliance and sound administration of the law in the field of taxation." Its backers include Julian Richer, of Richer Sounds, and James Timpson, of the eponymous shoe repairer. 
New law in Jordan obliges hiring of people with disabilities
Jordan is introducing legislation that obliges both private and public sector companies that employ between 25 and 50 workers to hire one employee with a disability. Organisations with more than 50 employees must hire 4% of the workforce from people with disabilities, according to the new law. The Higher Council for the rights of Persons with Disabilities (HCD) Secretary General Muhannad Azzeh observed that people with disabilities account for 11.2% of the overall Jordanian population, and he noted the big economic cost of their exclusion from working life. ‘'Hiring people with disabilities enhances corporate social responsibility and diversity. It also adds value to the workplace,'' he said. Samer Atout, head of disabled training centre at the Vocational Training Corporation (VTC), which offers various free training programmes for people with different types of disabilities to help them qualify for jobs, said: ‘'People with disabilities can work and contribute to the community in an environment that understands and respects their special needs. We as a community need to raise awareness of disability and believe that people with disabilities can learn, train and work.”
US to remain world’s ultra-rich hot spot
The US will remain the global hot spot for the world’s super-rich in the near future even as the fortunes of the wealthy in Asian countries such as China and India continue to grow, according to research from Boston Consulting Group. The firm’s 2021 Global Wealth Report says the number of US ultra-high-net-worth individuals will increase 36% to about 28,000 in 2025 compared with last year. China and India are expected to lead percentage growth of fortunes worth $100m or more for the same period by almost doubling their number of ultra-wealthy individuals to 13,600 and 1,400, respectively, according to the report. There are currently 60,000 ultra-high-net-worth individuals worldwide with a combined wealth of  $22 trillion.
French replaces English as official EU language - for six months
A senior diplomat has told Politico that French will replace English as the European Union’s official ‘working language’ when France takes over the EU presidency in 2022. During France's first presidency since Brexit, Emmanuel Macron’s government intends to push the country's native tongue as the 'lingua franca' of Brussels. All high-level meetings of the Council will be conducted in French instead of English during the presidency, which will last six months. In addition to meetings, letters, minutes and notes will also be in French.

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