Special – Legal Surgery with James Keogh

Special – Legal Surgery with James Keogh

As is well documented, Diverse groups continue to have to fight harder to be heard, to overcome barriers, break down obstacles and fight systemic blockers which prevent them furthering their careers and realising their ambitions.
During this precarious time, the employee landscape is changing rapidly and with fear of redundancies and furloughs being large, we partnered with James Keogh, Employment Lawyer and Partner at Knights Plc to provide a surgery to discuss and answer queries and topics surrounding employee rights, protection and due process.

In this show we discuss James’ legal career, the legal landscape in line with social, racial identity and justice and practical advice listeners may find useful

Our guest James Keogh, a partner and employment lawyer at Knights PLC. James has been practicing law since 2007, and has a broad range of employment law expertise is a trusted adviser to many well known businesses’ focused particularly within retail, manufacturing and food sectors.

Find out more about James https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-keogh-9b859513/

Transcription:

James Keogh Legal Surgery

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, employer, employment tribunal, business, individual, discrimination, employees, terms, employment, organisation, employment law, areas, james, workplace, rights, support, issues, discriminate, metoo, claim

SPEAKERS

Jonathan Jascobs, Man Wong, James Keogh

Man Wong  00:15

Hey everyone, welcome to the CandidateX podcast. Today we have a special we are going legal. I’m Man Wong and co-hosting with me is Jon Jacobs we are joined by our guest James Keough, a partner and employment lawyer at Knights PLC. James has been practicing law since 2007, and has a broad range of employment law expertise is a trusted adviser to many well-known businesses’ focused particularly within retail, manufacturing and food sectors. We’re thrilled to have him and we’re very excited to be speaking with him today. Jon, James, how are you both?

Jonathan Jacobs  00:44

Good. Thanks, man. Yeah,

Man Wong  00:46

Keeping dry out of the rain.

Jonathan Jacobs  00:48

Yeah, just about

Man Wong  00:51

Justbefore we get into it with a bit more about your background. James. Jon, please tell the listeners your idea on the show and we’re hoping to achieve?

Jonathan Jacobs  00:58

Yeah, sure. Thanks, man. I think, as always, our goal at CandidateX is looking at ways we can better add value, support our community of followers, how we can better serve them and even more so I suppose in the current climate. So, you know, as is well documented, diverse groups, continue to have to fight that little bit harder to be heard, to overcome barriers, break down obstacles, fight systemic blockers, etc. All of these things preventing them from furthering their careers and realising their ambition. So, I think today’s surgery with James, are particularly pertinent as we sit within a very precarious moment with the UK unemployment rates, and I suspect from all I’ve been reading that the rate of unemployment is going to be rising pretty rapidly once this furlough scheme is going to grind to a halt in October. I mean, there’s all sorts of new stories that have been coming out in the past couple of weeks, particularly around. I mean, there was one hotel receptionist role advertised in Manchester, I saw that received nearly 1000 applications within a 24 hour period of the job going live. For a position I might add, the hotel manager said normally gets about 15 applications. And the real scary part is the amount of overqualified staff that had been applying to that position. So you know, where we’re sitting at the moment we’re seeing unemployment rise last month by 74,000, which we’re seeing 650,000 fewer people on payrolls and before the crisis, according to official figures, and as we’re seeing vacancies are a record low and working hours have also tumbled according to the Office for National Statistics. So there’s gonna be a lot of concerned individuals out there at the moment, people that are either actively job seeking at the moment as a result of redundancy or who are currently furloughed and pretty fearful of the fact they may well lose their job in the coming months. And if you’re going to add to this fear, I suppose the lens of discrimination and prejudice, certainly within hiring processes and unfair constructive dismissal is perhaps disguised as redundancies, you can start to see, I suppose, where we’ve had so many people reaching out to us for advice and support on this matter in a moment. So James, welcome to the show. I imagine, you know, we may well only just scratched the surface today on a few things, but, you know, let’s see how much ground we can cover. Before we get into it, do you want to give our listeners a quick overview of yourself and your expertise and your background? And and let’s let’s start asking some questions.

James Keogh  03:49

Yeah, sure. Thanks both for having me. Just in terms of in terms of my background then, so I had what you’d probably traditionally described. As a working class upbringing in Essex, and I was fortunate enough to pass my 11 plus exam to go to Grammar School, and then went on to study law at Leeds University. And, when I was there I had quite a lot of knockbacks initially in applying for graduate schemes within law firms. Law firms, you know, very traditional businesses and highly competitive and they historically looked purely academics really rather than well rounded  personalities for their graduates. That is something which has started to change and maybe we can we can go on to talk about that a bit later on or different episode of the podcast, but I eventually managed to secure myself training contract with a larger international law firm and where I eventually qualified as an employment lawyer. I’m fascinated by people really and kind of what drives them and their decision making. And for me before I went to university, it was a toss up between studying psychology and law. And so I think it was pretty natural, really, that I went on to be interested in employment law, which is, you know, after all about people. And, after that and after practising as a lawyer at this international law firm, I recently joined Knights so a man mentioned them earlier. It’s a fast growing exciting legal services business. Not traditional. So we’ve moved away from a traditional law firm partnership structure and focus less on individualism and more on teamwork and looking out for each other, which is quite refreshing really, for for legal services business, and got a lot of colour, a lot of cultural values that I can identify with. Really, that’s what attracted me to work in. In terms of my role, my advise businesses and individuals really on a full spectrum of workplace issues and disputes and that touch on areas of employment law. And so it from, you know, all stages of employment cycle really recruitment level to training, conduct issues, grievances and training, termination of employment, essentially any area of potential workplace conflict, really. I assist with. Employment Lawyers to solve an ever changing area of the law really. And, Jon, you mentioned the furlough scheme before and I mean, that’s, that’s all new law, right? So having to advise both individuals and employers around the various facets of that is is a challenge in itself. And I think that’s what probably what keeps it interesting, really, for me in terms of thinking terms of my advice. So hopefully that gives it a little bit of a background to me. Y

Man Wong  07:06

Yeah great. Thank you, James, yeah, I think I think it’s an interesting time isn’t it to certainly for someone who’s in your position and your role, you know, as you say, irrespective of, the kind of 15 years of legal practice that you’ve been doing in various positions, and in specifically employment law – the landscape changing, you know, with furloughs a quite a common thing as I understand it in the US, but over here, it’s not really done. Maybe on the contractor space that Jon and I used to work in the agency model. We used to hand out furloughs to contractors, but not to the scale in degree and we’re really interested in the impact here. And we’ve got some specific questions that we want to move towards into the show from various listeners that have some, some queries around their their situations, which I hope you can shed some light but starting a bit more generally. James, I’m interested in terms of employment law. So what trends have you seen at this stage in time and how much is COVID and movements from societal identification such as Black Lives Matter #metoo cause and influence this?

James Keogh  08:08

Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean that there’s generally a greater awareness, I think of employment rights. And I think the the internet and the quality of content on there has certainly helped to boost individuals to be able to get access to high quality information about about their rights. And in terms of more recent developments and the Metoo movement and the gender pay gap reporting that’s sat alongside that really meant that … I think that was there was a sort of feeling of increasing confidence amongst female workers in terms of speaking out about oppressions and barriers in the workplace. And then, in addition to that, I think mental health has certainly been an emerging area and more awareness of mental health issues and how they’re impacting on people’s people’s jobs. So I think employers are being more willing to support employees with mental health problems and encouraging them to come forward and trying to increase levels of awareness across management populations, within business as well as something that we’re seeing as a trend and obviously can only be a good thing. And then more recently, with the Black Lives Matter movement as well, and the ethnicity pay reporting that looks like it’s certainly going to be  coming into force. And I think that certainly, again, you know, an increased focus on employment rights and people feeling more confident to speak out about. And both in terms of a decision making in the workplace, and whether that be conscious or unconscious, and then also sort of various different levels of, of harassment as well. And we might be able to go and talk about that. But, you know, from overt harassment to sort of more cases of microaggression, which I know is quite an American term, but it’s increasingly coming into the vocabulary here in this country. And I think all of these things are good to know they’re they’re very good points to be flushed out I think in the UK economy and then in the employment space, because you know, these things should be spoken about and should be addressed and should in general, these kind of employment law issues and employee rights, discrimination, equality is just far higher up now on the agenda of boards in UK businesses and that can only be a positive.

Jonathan Jacobs  11:01

Yeah, I mean, you’ve touched on a few things there that are of interest, I think, you know, certainly from my experience, you know, talking about mental health issues, the response to the me to campaign and and people get more willing and companies have been more open to, to listening to complaints and taking them much more seriously than maybe before. In my experience and you know, I entered the workplace in 2006 So, you know, 15 years and I’ve seen a huge change in attitude into the sorts of things I think there was a real sense of you’re weak if you are feeling fatigued or worn down or mentally drained and you daren’t in environments we used to work in, you daren’t say that you feel mentally unwell for the fear of, you know, having repercussions with your own career path and promotion opportunities because it was weak to be to be seen to be suffering in any way shape or form, which of course is completely daft. You know, as human beings you go through, you know, a rollercoaster of emotions as all sorts of things that can affect it, family life, etc. So, the fact that companies are more open and set up to discussing these problems or having support networks and company benefits set up to support individuals now is encouraging. Have you seen an increase then in companies, setting themselves up to really support their staff? Much more so, I mean, obviously, we’re of a similar age, James. So, have you seen an improvement in that level in the in the years you’ve spent in the industry so far?

James Keogh  12:47

Yeah. And I think part of that. Part of that is, is businesses being there to support staff who come forward with issues. Create an environment where people can be can be completely open and candid and not in fear of the repercussions of coming forward of issues, which is obviously important, but you know, twinned with that, is employers really encouraging managers and also incentivizing management to to be good in terms of their support of staff that come forward.

Jonathan Jacobs  13:24

And their welfare right?

James Keogh  13:25

So yeah, absolutely, yeah. Like empathy used to be considered to be a weakness among managers, whereas now, you know, as a quality in itself is regarded as a strength and educational, you know, programmes really for both for managers and employees. Educating people create an environment where, where people were really educated about themselves, you know, why do you react in the way you do to others, you know, how different people’s brains work under pressure, and why we find fault, rather than looking to praise and generally how it’s possible to rewire your brain. All of these things are actually extremely important, both for managers and staff, and I think employers are investing a lot more time, money and effort in in making sure, that they’re introducing training and, and setting time aside for these things. And let’s hope that that doesn’t stop. And due to the, you know, cost pressures, businesses are going to be put under due to COVID. Let’s hope not.

Man Wong  14:45

Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? I think, um, so you said there’s a few points that J and yourself covered. And, you know, it sounds like there’s this inflection point where technology is enabled and much more scalable and access to information so people are much more aware of perhaps certainly movements, you know, such as BLM, Me too, you know, the pay gap issues that that keeps sort of bouncing but also a bit more ability to research what the legal rights are that you may have that can challenge certain situations or that you may find yourself in. Do you think then James is the is the law in tune with that as such, because obviously a lot a lot of employment law and, you know, we’ll get into a bit more about protected characteristics, for instance, but the law that’s been created, is updated enough to deal with some of the changes that are happening in the societal sense that we may be prone to sort of areas of discrimination still or do you think it needs some work still to kind of not modernise, but keep up with it?

James Keogh  15:52

Well, I think the I think the legal framework in this country,  particularly on discrimination and protecting groups of thethe population i think is very sophisticated actually. Employees do have access to justice, It was only a few years ago now that the UK Government abolished employment tribunal fees based on a challenge from the unison trade union. And what that did was enable access to justice people to be able to bring claims without having to in an employment tribunal to enforce their rights without having to incur a cost. And that’s just one example really, of how people do have access to justice in this country. And there are various different forms of discrimination legislation and rights that people have in order to in order to protect their interests. You know, maybe in other countries, they would struggle to, to bring claims and know how to go about it or the costs involved would mean that it was prohibitive for them to do so. So, I mean, there are some other areas, for example, such as an unfair dismissal, and where an employee would have to have two years service in order to bring a claim where you might argue, you know, that prevents access to justice, but certainly in specific areas such as discrimination, you know, where it’s a day one right for an individual, you know, that certainly I feel like, there is enough protection there. And actually, the potential compensatory awards and that people can be issued by an employment tribunal are uncapped. So it’s a very serious issue for an employer that ends up in that position. And that is quite right. You know, it’s quite right that the repercussions should be as serious as they are. So interesting, isn’t it? So it sounds like the law is pretty, pretty fair is the right word, I guess in certainly in favour of the  employee. Certainly once you’re in the organisation and working, and then you talk about discrimination being a day one thing, obviously you don’t you can be discriminated obviously, before you even work for an organisation. Right, it could be done on the application stage and on the sourcing element there. I think for the benefit of the listeners. I’d like to talk a little bit about the sort of protected characteristics aspect there where discrimination can be directly appraised upon. Can you give us a little bit of an understanding around that, please?  Yeah, sure. So in under the Equality Act, there’s various groups population that are protected from from discrimination, essentially less favourable treatment. And so they are Age, Disability, Race, Nationality, Religious or Philosophical belief, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Maternity and Pregnancy, I think I’ve probably got all of them. But yeah, if you have any of those characteristics and you can establish that you do, which in most of the cases is relatively simple exercise. Disability is the one where perhaps you know that that’s something which is which is often subject to challenge, but if you possess one of those characteristics, then you know you you are able to assert your rights not to be treated less favourably on account of those and characteristics and have protection from various forms of discrimination. So, you know, and discrimination can take various forms, so your direct discrimination where someone stopped directly treated less favourably on account of their age. So, for example, I, I may not have got a job because I’m too old, versus indirect discrimination where it slightly is less overt say, for example, it might be a redundancy selection criteria that it’s a last in first out and you know that indirectly discriminates against younger people. So, you know, that is a form of indirect discrimination. All be it , the indirect discrimination can be potentially justified by the employer in certain situations, to other forms of discrimination such as harassment, or victimisation. There is one other form which is positive discrimination. Implement reasomable adjustments for disabled people. Well, so you know, there are all these different forms of discrimination based on, you know, an individual having a protected characteristic really. So, you know, I think that it’s fair, all of these rights are ways of a certain in a very, very complicated area. And I think that’s the challenge probably for, for individuals to be getting the right amount, that sort of quality, legal advice that they might need in order to take their claims forward. And, you know, ultimately, there are trade unions, but they don’t extend to every group of employees within within, within every business. So it can sometimes be a challenge, although individuals do have access to employment, tribunals and right is often a challenge for them to get the right level of advice that they need.

Jonathan Jacobs  21:49

James, I mean, one of the things we’re just listening to you there, I imagine those are microaggressions. And on a similar theme, a lot of the things you’ve just discussed many companies aren’t overtly doing these things discriminating. Usually there’s a lot of subtle things that you might suspect you may not have a hard evidence say when accusing your employer or former employer of some of these things. So is that something you see quite a lot where people come to you and say, I suspect it was because, I’m gay, I suspect it’s because I suffer from poor mental health at times, or I suspect it’s because I recently came back from maternity leave, etc, etc. But you can’t necessarily how you don’t necessarily have any hard evidence or or fact to draw upon in order to bring back some claims on this.

James Keogh  22:42

Yeah, it is absolutely. And I think that is, you know, it’s microaggression is probably in a good example of that, really, in terms of it’s a problem across all sorts of industries. You know, as you, as you say, john, you know, subtle, slight reaction that can leave people from a minority group from feeling upset, offended or uncomfortable. And often the person delivering, that action is kind of really unaware of all that impact and had, never intended it to be that way and ultimately that form of workplace harassment, and it’s about the impact on the individual rather than necessarily what was intended and, you know, the law does affect the individual in that respect. And but it’s often it can be sort of still quite a bit of a hurdle to overcome for somebody to establish that they are not being hypersensitive and that there is something in it and they are often you know, it’s helpful for them to be able to draw on facts. That over a period of time that have led them to feel that way and that it’s maybe not just that person that’s been impacted. And there are others as well. And often what you’ll find is, here is a time, if there is a good case for an individual to have, there’s often a timeline of a series of events and facts that do when pulled together do go to suggest that there has been foul play really or some kind of some kind of workplace harassment or discrimination. that’s taken place and it’s something often which you can only really flush out in an employment tribunal environment and that allow somebody independant like a judge to to make a deliberation on  it once they’ve heard all the evidence really, it’s often not obvious.

Jonathan Jacobs  25:01

No, absolutely. So I imagine advice then for people that are feeling that they have been marginalised in one of these ways is to, I suppose collect data and information, no matter how small they may deem it and, over a collection of events or time, you may well have something that can point towards discrimination in one of these categories, right?

James Keogh  25:26

Yeah, that’s right. That’s true, I think on both sides. So, you know, if you’re an individual and you feel that you’ve been subjected to any of this kind of treatment, unlawful treatment in the workplace, then absolutely, it’s important for you to gather evidence of that and to make a record of it because ultimately, that paper trail on that record is your evidence, you know, that you is part of the evidence any way that you would be potentially asking an employment tribunal to assess further down the line. But the same goes for the employer as well, where if you feel that you’ve done everything right on behalf of a member of staff and that they are being hypersensitive there, and they have taken it the wrong way, and maybe you feel that it’s unjust of them to be you know, kicking off with really with you then the same goes for the employer as well in terms of keeping that paper trail so that you can establish to an employment tribunal that you have treated the employee reasonably, and that you haven’t done anything wrong. And you the same applies there. Absolutely.

Man Wong  26:39

So it’s interesting. We’re talking about cases of, you know, redundancies and things that affect employees, but you know, the top of this podcast, we discussed briefly the, the unemployment levels in the amount of job seekers that apply on the market at the moment, and, you know, for people that are sending their CVs into job applications, it’s very, very hard to prove that you’ve been discriminated against because of anything on your CV, rght? So are you seeing companies doing more to protect or to be overt about how they decide on their hiring processes? With regards to see the reviews and the incoming applications? More so than the outgoing people, which we’ve discussed?

James Keogh  27:34

Yes. I’ve seen that and I think that is important. I think it’s a little ultimately that comes from the top isn’t it? You know, it needs to be it needs to be an issue. You know, discrimination and unconscious bias in between needs to be absolutely something which is, as we discussed before, you know, on the agenda of the board and seen as being a priority. And you know if that if that flows from the top really and if that can become a priority for business, then often you’ll find that they can create what to ensure as much as they possibly can. There’s no way of eliminating unconscious bias but to go as far as they possibly can to, to be able to introduce measures and you know, such as trying to anonymize CVS as much as you possibly can, when they’re put before the recruiting managers. You know, things like that. It’s very important to protect the individuals, protect the business, but also create the right kind of environment. That’s, that means that you want to attract you’re gonna attract the right kind of talent to your business. I’m curious with all this kind of, you know, the changes in society with the social identity and the movements around this. Have you seen your caseload increase? You know, because, you know, things like metoo highlight lighted these areas women are becoming more empowered, not just women, but anybody that’s been the victim of any any sort of sexual assault or harassment is more open to sort of voicing voicing their concerns and their experiences and also with BLM been being so prominent atthe moment Do you find it a lot more? those sort of cases coming to the forefront on your workload as well? Yeah, absolutely a higher I’d say we haven’t seen a massive increase in caseload certainly higher portion relating to matters such as sexual harassment and racial discrimination. I think that’s only going to increase. What we are seeing as well as spy coffees and data subject access requests as well from for individuals with GDPR because to Jon’s point earlier in terms of one of the areas and individual can obviously gather information about themselves, is to be able to make formal  request to the business, for emails and other information about themselves to be able to find out, how is information about me being processed within the business and often data subject access requests can lead to an individual actually receiving information that validates some of those suspicions, that they may have had from their day to day feeling. So, no, certainly an increase in those. It sort of shows there should be an increased focus for businesses and make sure you get it right. Yeah, certainly interesting. I mean, a lot a lot of social media activith that I witness is kind of really bipartisan, you know, this is the area where people feel okay. Because of these movements and everything that’s captured on this side, you know, people are much more prone to playing the race card quote unquote, or likewise, you know, people that want to voice something, quite often what’s termed as gaslighting. You know, they’re gaslit, where people just sort of try and extinguish any of those concerns by saying that’s not what these people meant, or what you’ve taken out of context or this sort of stuff. So it’s interesting to see, you know, these different polar positions that it hasn’t it has had some inspiration and lead, I guess, well, how I’d like to view is that people feel more comfortable in sort of raising their hands and talking about it and actually seeing the ability to find a legal resource in order to validate this piece and things like GDPR, as you mentioned, with this with a with a subject Access Request to really sort of help them you know, validate these suspicions as you really. Yeah. And I think that, you know, there’s a to your point there, I think, you know, there’s there’s basically an outdated view, really the, you know, a focus on these issues within businesses and boardlebe; could and introducing training for employees on things like unconscious bias and harassment, you know, that that could increase sensitivity and thereby actually potentially increase conflict in the workplace and, you know, query, it’s been queried in the past, whether it encourages a belief, you know, that one group of people is always the aggressor, and another group of people grew up as a victim. But that’s a very outdated concept now, as you say, and I think that there’s an increasing recognition that there are significant benefits in focusing on creating the type of environment, you know, that you described, where people can come forward and be open, honest and transparent. And actually, you know, if you’re able to, if you’re able as a business to do those things, then you know, you’ll attract a more diverse and talented workforce. Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to sort of capture how the current landscape is, you know, so it certainly seems that, feels to me that organisations are trying to modernise, they’re trying to keep up with the societal identifications that people are having, and how to match them and provide support for them in the right way. And the legal industry is adapting in the way also enabled to make the services accessible for them so they can gain the support and the areas that they need. Moving on to a bit more of a specific questions that we’ve had through now that we’ve got your time here, Jimmy. The first one I’ve wanted to ask you was so there’s a certain situation one of the listeners shot a question across was, if I must take a pay reduction during the situation with COVID. What are my rights and can I say no? So, I mean, if an employer is seeking to reduce your pay, as with any other sort of material change to your term and condition of employment, they would need to do so with your agreement unless they already had a contractual right to make variations/ And quite often, employers will not have a contractual right to reduce your pay. So, they would if they’re going to do it, lawfully make that kind of change, they would need to do it with your agreement. But it is possible for an employer if they don’t have your agreement to do that to be able to implement a process that we call dismissal and engagement. So if they if they believe that the change is necessary for business reasons and that they can support that. And that they’ve consulted with you over trying to get your explicit acceptance to the change to their pay, then and you haven’t been forthcoming with with your acceptance then they can go through a process of consulting with you over potentially dismissing you for your failure to to accept the new change. And then offering new re-engagement on the revised package. Now that’s, that is a process that you can enable an employer to lawfully dismiss you but they need in going through that process as with any other termination of employment, they would need to do so, through a reasonable process following all the necessary steps but also have have a good reason and sound reason for the change really. So it is important an individual in that situation understands that either they would have to agree to it voluntarily or the employer is duty bound to consult with them first before, you know introducing anything without your agreement. So in essence, if, as you said, Nothing in the contract, unless they’ve got a provision in there in the first place means they can automatically do this anyhow. They need to go through a consultation process with the individual, and they can choose to accept or not, if they don’t, if they choose to not to accept then  another recourse that the organisation could do with them is to do the dismissal and reengagement piece that you mentioned there.  Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Right.

Man Wong  36:46

Okay. Cool. Moving on from there sort of, more generally speaking from someone else… In pursuing any employment, employment disputes, what are my legal options you mentioned obviously sort of tribunals and things like that earlier in the conversation – what else is at their disposal?

James Keogh  37:02

Well, it’s important for anyone who has a serious issue in the workplace that they want to raise and they feel, you know, maybe they’re subject to an employment tribunal claim to first raise that internally. And often, an individual can feel well, that’s not going to get me anywhere because this is the same business that have mistreated me but ultimately you should, you should be raising that issue as a grievance really. And then it’s incumbent upon the business to ensure that somebody’s impartial and at the right level, addresses that grievance in accordance with the requirements in the ACAS code of practice. So it’s important as a first port of call to articulate that grievance and put that in writing and send it to send it in through the necessary route within within within the organisation. And then if that doesn’t give you the satisfactory outcome, then, you know, it would be it’s a necessary precursor to bring in an employment tribunal claim for the individual to go to ACAS who are an independent organisation set up by the government who are there to resolve workplace conflict. So it’s incumbent upon the individual to go to a class first to see if they could try to explore essentially like an out of court resolution without the need for an employment tribunal claim to be bought. And at any stage during, then ACAS will then contact the employer and try to see often you know, that the resolution sought by the individual is a financial resolution. But it may be also that, you know, they might would like being statement or you know, some some other kind of non monetary resolution to the conflict. And ACAS can help to try to broker a deal there. But at any stage during this process, you know, the individual can obtain legal advice, and they could go to the Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they can help support them as well. So, you know, there are, there are various stages that, you know, are designed to try to give both parties an opportunity to resolve their issue without needing to put further burden on what is already a very busy and taxpayer funded employment tribunal system.  Yeh, ACAS for the benefit of listeners is the advisory conciliation arbitration service, right. And, as you say, they’re are third party on behalf of the government to resolve these sort of issues here. Is that quite quite common recourse because I imagine if you’ve got an employment issue internally right and is specifically with your manager, for instance, if you had to go through the necessary internal routes, you may not get the desired outcomes that you want, right? And it can be can can cause quite a lot of friction in your day to day job otherwise. Yeah, and I think, you know, in ACAS website is a very useful thing, both for employers and employees, it contains a lot of general information in there about work rights and necessary processes for employers and employees to go through. And, you know, I would recommend anyone that has an issue along the lines of what we discussed during this podcast that, you know, they don’t wait to go on the air cast website until the point when they you know, they get thinking about lodging and employment tribunal claim do that much earlier because it will help inform your next steps and maybe help you to frame  what it is that you want to say and to help you articulate that to your employer in such a way that it might be able to get you the outcome that you that you desire really. And equally from the employer side, it’s important to look at that to consider how you respond to any issue that’s raised as well.

Jonathan Jacobs  41:26

James, I’ve got I’ve got something just to ask you. So we, in our experiences, our backgrounds as recruiters, one way that we’ve seen companies address diversity issues in terms of hiring is by employing positive discrimination tactics, which is an interesting subject. I mean, a lot of a lot of companies have been, you know, prejudicing their hiring for X many years and so, you know, you kind of get the psychology of now positively trying to attract more women or more disabled people or more ethnic minorities to come work for that business. But it’s a tricky place to be, isn’t it? Because then, of course, you are discriminating against everyone else in trying to do that. So have you seen, I suppose many companies? I mean, what are the rights there? And in terms of the some of the elements we’ve discussed, and in terms of companies being able to do such tactics, shouldn’t it be an equality focus process rather than an overtly discriminatory one?

James Keogh  42:38

Yeah, I think that’s right. it is more a case of, you know, without creating an issue for yourself potentially it is important to try to focus on eliminating inequality as opposed to favouring one particular group of population and that’s the safest thing for an employer to do rather than having to potentially justify what is a, you know, an indirectly discriminatory policy that you might have. You know, there are areas, there are a couple of areas, you know, where employers are required to positively discriminate but they are very specific and targeted points that come out their quality at say, one of those areas being disability and having a positive duty as an employer to provide reasonable adjustments in favour of a with a disability. And likewise and the other one is, is an an employee who is on maternity leave and employers are required to favour that employee for any suitable vacancy that may arise when that employees is made redundant whilst on maternity leave. So there are a couple of these very specific targeted areas in which employers are allowed to positively discriminate, but like you say, I think it’s, you know, far more transparent and safe for employers to focus on eliminating doing everything they can to eliminate inequality.

Jonathan Jacobs  44:28

Yeah, I mean, for sure. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition for companies because on the one hand, they are measuring mentioned, having to do mandatory reporting now on say, gender pay gap. And then on the other hand, in their efforts to try and bring more female leaders into the business, they are actively trying to discriminate against men for certain roles in order to bring women through. So it’s a very challenging position for organisations to be in, particularly those, as we say with 250 staff or above To report on, these things. So it’s interesting that the way that things are going I mean, you touched upon ethnicity reporting is something that’s coming down the line. I mean, do you know much more about when? Or how likely this sort of thing is, is going to be to land? I mean, is it going to be this year, next year on the kind of, I suppose is going to be fast track given all this going on at the moment in the world?

James Keogh  45:24

Yeah, I think it is, is it’s certainly going to be something almost certainly it’s going to be something that comes in, it’s just a question of, it’s just a question of when, and all of the practical, you know, issues that stem from it probably do need to be need to be thought about a bit more. And that is certainly something which is coming down the line, you know, allowing employers to get access to that kind of level of data, of course, because it’s it’s obviously not as straightforward as gender pay gap reporting is far more complicated and there’s lots of a data privacy issues and so on that are associated with it that do need to be thrashed out. So I think it’s purely only there’s some of those practical points that are preventing this from or might prevent it from coming immediately. But yeah, all of the I think any kind of initiative like that, which is there to promote inclusivity I think will be firmly on the agenda of the government and rightly so.

Jonathan Jacobs  46:37

Sure. I mean, you touched on data there, I think that’s a whole topic for another day because there’s so many questions that that word data triggers in my head and I’m in no doubt the listeners. So you know, you’re gonna have to come back again. I’m afraid James and answer some other questions for us on another day. Yeah.

Man Wong  47:00

Yeah, no. It’s been great chatting to you, James today and thanks very much for taking the time to go through some of the bits and pieces with us. Very interesting.

James Keogh  47:09

Been my pleasure, and I hope you have me back.

Man Wong  47:11

100%

Really enjoyed getting to speak on some interesting and important topics. We certainly hope to do a follow up as we try and keep pace with the changing legal landscape for employees.

Thanks Jon for co-hosting  

Thank to those who wrote in with questions, hope you guys found the topics useful and please get in touch on our socials if you have any other questions you’d like to us to answer or discuss.

In the meanwhile be good, be kind and stay safe everyone.

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