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UK Edition
24th November 2022
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Business and unions demand Sunak scraps planned bonfire of EU rules
Over a dozen organisations have called on UK prime minister Rishi Sunak to drop plans to automatically strip EU-derived legislation from the British statute book, arguing that it would cause “significant confusion and disruption.” In a letter sent to Grant Shapps, the business secretary, the alliance, including the Trades Union Congress, the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “Getting to grips with any resulting regulatory changes will impose a major new burden on business which it could well do without.” The letter says the proposal would overturn “decades of case law” and make the “interpretation of the law highly uncertain.” This could affect holiday pay, safe working hours and laws governing the labelling of some foodstuffs. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former minister for Brexit opportunities, has previously praised the Retained EU Law Bill, saying it is vital to create distance between the UK and the EU.
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Comfort food coaxes staff back to the office
Cheap meals at work can be a way for employees to offset daily living costs, and London’s employers are using subsidized food to coax workers back into the office, according to the chief executive officer of catering company Compass, which is seeing more of its client companies offering subsidized meals as “one of the levers to bring people back.” Dominic Blakemore said “There’s a lot of comfort food” alongside a focus on health and wellness. “We still have fish and chips on Fridays and chicken katsu curry is becoming one of the most popular items on the menus.”
University students face disruption as walkout begins
The University and College Union (UCU) says more than 70,000 staff will be taking part in strikes beginning today. Lectures could be called off at 150 affected universities with walkouts also taking place on Friday and next Wednesday. The National Union of Students is supporting the strikes, but some students are concerned about missing classes. Universities say they will put measures in place to mitigate the impact on students' learning.
Scottish schools close as teachers strike over pay
Scotland's first national schools strike since the 1980s is set to begin today with a one-day walkout by teachers. The industrial action over pay will affect pupils at nearly every primary and secondary school and many council nurseries. A revised pay offer on Tuesday was rejected as "insulting" by unions. But Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said union demands for a 10% pay rise were "unaffordable."
Danish tax case to be heard in UK Supreme Court
The UK Supreme Court is to hear the Danish tax authority's attempt to pursue almost 80 defendants in London over alleged tax fraud, including Dubai-based hedge fund manager Sanjay Shah's Solo Capital Partners. Denmark is seeking £1.44bn in damages from 79 British defendants in one of the biggest ever UK civil litigation cases. Chris Waters, a managing partner at law firm Meaby & Co Solicitors, who is representing Shah and his companies, said it was a "significant step" that the UK Supreme Court would now hear the case. London's High Court last year ruled that the Danish state could not use English courts to enforce its tax laws - but the Court of Appeal decided the case turned on fraud and reversed the decision. "The Sanjay Shah defendants have a real prospect of successfully reinstating [the High Court's] Mr Justice Andrew Baker's decision to dismiss the entire case . . . because Denmark is trying to enforce a tax case in the UK," Waters said.
Compensation for dyslexic M&S employee dismissed over mistakes in emails
Rita Jandu, a clothing and home planner at Marks & Spencer who has dyslexia, has been awarded over £50,000 after she was dismissed for making mistakes in emails. Jandu, who worked for the High Street chain for 22 years, struggled to read and write lengthy messages and preferred to communicate using bullet points. An employment tribunal heard that Jandu was "singled out" by managers at M&S who selected her for redundancy after she appeared to rush her work and her emails contained inaccuracies. The tribunal has now ruled that M&S managers ignored the impact that Jandu's dyslexia had on her work including her ability to concentrate and communicate. Jandu was awarded £53,855 for disability discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Senior barrister appointed to investigate complaints against Raab
Adam Tolley KC is to hold an inquiry into Dominic Raab’s conduct after formal complaints were made relating both to his first stint at the Ministry of Justice, from September last year to September this year, and to his time as foreign secretary between July 2019 and September 2021. Tolley, who previously defended Prince Charles, will initially investigate the two formal complaints and "establish the facts of the cases." Raab has said he will "thoroughly rebut and refute" the claims and that he was "confident that I have behaved professionally throughout." Prime minister Rishi Sunak has hired Tolley as he has not yet found someone prepared to take on the role of his adviser on ministerial interests. The position has been vacant since Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to Queen Elizabeth, resigned in June.
Ofcom could have greater surveillance powers than spy agencies
The Times reports that Ofcom could have greater surveillance powers than spy agencies under laws being considered by parliament. A legal analysis has claimed that the media regulator is being given authority under the Online Safety Bill to force technology companies to crack down on terrorism and child abuse content on private messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal. Under the bill, the regulator will be able to order companies to use technology to scan messages to root out terrorism or child abuse. Meanwhile, a failure to comply would result in a fine of up to 10% of the company's worldwide revenue. Human rights lawyer Matthew Ryder said in a legal opinion commissioned by Index on Censorship that Ofcom would not need prior authorisation for issuing a demand for scanning messages and there was no independent oversight of such powers.
PKF to create 25 new finance jobs in Leeds
Accountancy company PKF plans to create 25 new jobs next year after its new financial services team exceeded expectations. The Leeds-based firm launched the new division last year and since its inception has created 20 new jobs and generated over £1m revenue. Martin Watson, financial services partner at PKF, said: “Financial services companies were telling us they wanted a credible alternative to the Big Four in the region; they were crying out for more choice. The pace at which we’ve grown our new business has exceeded our expectations and bears this out. We’re really encouraged that so many northern companies have chosen to work with us.”
Belgium formally gives employees option of four-day work week
Workers in Belgium are now entitled to a four-day week. The regulation came into effect on Monday (November 21st). But workers who take up the option will have to work the same amount of hours across the week. All employees in Belgium, whether they work in the public or the private sector, will have the choice of working nine and a half hours a day over four days, or eight hours a day over five days. Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, when he announced the new package of employment measures earlier this year, said:  "We have experienced two difficult years. With this agreement, we set a beacon for an economy that is more innovative, sustainable and digital. The aim is to be able to make people and businesses stronger.” He added that "The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time . . . If you compare our country with others, you’ll often see we’re far less dynamic." But euronews says reports in local media suggest that employers and employees are expressing caution about the reform. Companies fear the new “condensed” workweek could bring organisational issues, and unions believe it will simply mean a bigger workload for employees.
Making your company more accessible for disabled staff
Writing for Bloomberg, Molly Smith looks at eight ways to make sure your company is inclusive and accessible for disabled employees. A record 5.9 million men and women with disabilities ages 16-64 were employed in October in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — up almost 25% from February 2020. Employers who want to bring in a wide pool of job applicants are advised to: clarify job descriptions, invest in technology, create employee-resource groups, and extend flexible-work options, among other recommendations. It’s noted that facilitating an inclusive and accessible workplace isn’t just a responsibility for HR or a diversity and inclusion officer. Karthik Murali, head of public health for Akido Labs, a tech-enabled medical network, says: “The initiative should come from all leaders at the company . . . That’s critical for the system to change.”
Twitter to talk with fired Ghana staff over severance
Twitter is to hold talks with fired employees in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, the location of the social media platform’s only African office, after they were offered poorer-than-announced severance packages. Around 20 people worked in the West African country’s office. Carla Olympio, a lawyer representing the employees, said: “This is not an ordinary situation and so Twitter must obey redundancy provisions under Ghanaian law . . . You can’t compel anyone to treat people with respect but you have to obey the law.” Companies in Ghana have to notify authorities at least three months before implementing a redundancy, show they are working to mitigate any negative impact, and plan for negotiation of redundancy pay. Twitter announced it was opening its first Africa office in Ghana in a bid to "be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent," it said in an April 2021 statement.
Thousands defrauded in £48m web hoax
An international spoofing website defrauded about 200,000 victims in the UK alone, the Metropolitan Police has said, after an anti-fraud operation brought the crime spree to an end. More than £48m was taken from victims as a result of the platform, the force said. The website allowed criminals to pose as high street banks including Barclays, Santander, HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, First Direct, NatWest, Nationwide and TSB. At one stage, officers found that almost 20 people a minute were being contacted by scammers hiding behind false identities. The biggest loss to a single victim was more than £3m, while victims lost £10,000 on average.

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