MPs demand greater workplace protection for women experiencing menopause

MPs demand greater workplace protection for women experiencing menopause

MPs are leading calls for the Government to implement clear workplace policies to protect women who are experiencing menopause.

A significant number of women have seen their careers ruined by symptoms such as anxiety, confusion and a loss of confidence, with some female employees having to face disciplinary action, being forced to take time off work, or even have to stop working altogether due to the condition.

Around 80 per cent of will women experience some symptoms of the menopause, brought about when ovulation stops as a result of hormone levels dropping.

One in four of these will have severe symptoms, including anxiety and depression, which can lead to them being diagnosed with mental health problems and prescribed medication.

MP Carolyn Harris said: “You wouldn’t dream of having a workplace where people weren’t entitled to certain things because they were pregnant, and it’s exactly the same for women with the menopause. I firmly believe there should be legislation to make sure every workplace has a menopause policy, just like they have a maternity policy.”

A survey of more than 1,100 women conducted by health experts found that 94 per cent of women felt their work had suffered as a result of symptoms, with more than half (53 per cent) saying colleagues had noticed a deterioration in their performance.

Just over half of respondents had taken time off sick, and one in 10 had missed more than eight weeks of work.

Over a third of those women involved in the survey said their employers did not offer any kind of discussion group, awareness session or training on the subject of menopause, despite the fact there are more than five million working women aged 45-60 in the UK.

Sue Hackett, the London Regional Equality Officer at the GMB union, said: “It is high time we stop treating menstruation and menopause as taboo subjects. Women have put up with insulting comments and a woeful lack of provision for far too long for what is a completely natural condition.

“Workplace policies around sickness absence or performance management could unfairly penalise women because of key symptoms like memory loss or lack of concentration.”

For help and advice on all aspects of employment law, including support with putting in place non-discriminatory workplace policies, please contact us.

Punk rock band and sports equipment company clash over IP rights

Punk rock band and sports equipment company clash over IP rights

80s punk rock band, The Clash, have filed a U.S. lawsuit against a sporting goods manufacturer after it took exception to a new line of tennis racquets bearing the band’s name.

In February this year, Wilson launched its latest range of tennis racquets branded with the name ‘Clash’ and, in doing so is facing an IP dispute.

The band’s law team argue that their clients have pre-existing links with the world of tennis, having licensed their music which has been played at a number of international tennis events including Wimbledon.

The rock group also agreed a licensing deal which allowed American Footwear Company, Converse, to produce a collection of ‘The Clash’ branded sports trainers, to mark the 40th anniversary of the punk rock movement.

As such, the lawsuit contends that Wilson’s entry to the market this year with a range of ‘Clash’ branded racquets, covers and sports holdalls – could result in consumers wrongly believing that the band had similarly endorsed these products.

Dorisimo Limited, the UK-based based company which owns the band’s ‘Clash’ trademark, insists that Wilson’s new tennis racquet range is breaching their trademark rights and is now taking legal action to cancel Wilson’s trademark, which was granted by a Californian court, as well as a permanent injunction which would prevent the sportswear firm from attempting to brand any products with the word ‘Clash’ in future.

In addition, Dorisimo is claiming damages estimated at around $3 million and is seeking a court order for all Wilson products with ‘Clash’ branding to be destroyed.

Wilson has yet to issue a comment on the legal dispute.

Alex Hall, a senior solicitor in iLaw’s litigation team who regularly deals with IP disputes, said: “Although this dispute is still in its early stages, in general terms, trademark laws seek to ensure that a company’s trademark or service mark in connection with goods or services are properly protected.

“The crucial legal test is whether it is done in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake amongst customers or consumers.”

“There are various courses of action which can be pursued if you find that your mark is being infringed. Unless it is an emergency, the usual first step is to write a formal’ Letter Before Claim’ to the infringer setting out the nature of your claim and what you want from them; often giving the other party 14 or 21 days to reply.

“If matters cannot be resolved in correspondence, then it is common for the parties to either meet face to face or to engage the services of a neutral third-party mediator.

“Should that not lead to a conclusion, then there is an option to formally lodge a Court claim in either the High Court or the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court.”

If you would like help or advice with any issues relating to intellectual property matters, please contact us.

Former BBC employee receives settlement over pay discrimination

Former BBC employee receives settlement over pay discrimination

A former BBC employee has received an out of court settlement worth more than £130,000 after she accused the broadcaster of discrimination when it was revealed male counterparts had received significantly higher wages.

The dispute arose after Caroline Barlow who had worked in the corporation’s design and engineering division for six years, resigned when it emerged that fifteen men in similar roles within her division were paid significantly higher wages.

This led to her filing an employment tribunal claim on the matter, accusing the BBC of failing to meet its obligations over equal pay, as well as claiming they were guilty of constructive dismissal, harassment and discrimination.

Ms Barlow said she had first come to believe she was being underpaid when the corporation published its career path framework data.  Around the same time, the BBC found male staff earned an average of 9.3 per cent more than women.

She embarked on the BBC’s informal pay inquiry process and received a 25 per cent pay increase.

However, with little explanation or transparency over the decision, Ms Barlow suspected she was still being underpaid. She then raised a formal pay grievance and used data protection laws to force the release of her pay review.

Ms Barlow found she was paid at least £9,000 a year less than her male peers and in her claim stated she believed she was underpaid by up to £69,000 a year in comparison to some of her male colleagues, who were in the same pay bracket.

The BBC denied Ms Barlow’s allegations. However, in May it agreed to an out-of-court settlement which included a termination fee on the basis that her claim was withdrawn.

The corporation also accepted that the former Head of Product was paid less than 15 men in similar roles, but insisted this was for non-gender reasons such as their work being of higher value.

Ms Barlow said: “Inequality at the BBC is a choice. The BBC destroyed my career, my confidence, my mental wellbeing, and nothing will ever make up for that.

“They can give as much money as they like, but it will never bring that back.”

The corporation is currently being investigated over pay discrimination by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with results set to be published later this year.

Maximising your mark – Experiences of a UK retailer

Maximising your mark – Experiences of a UK retailer

There is an inherent value in a company’s intellectual property that is easy to overlook.

For example, spending years cultivating a brand can really pay off, which is why companies should use registered trade marks to monetise this goodwill.

iLaw has acted for a UK independent retailer that traded under a recognisable name for which it held the UK-registered trade mark.

Unfortunately, a large US business operating under the same mark was seeking to expand into the UK and the retailer was concerned that the US entity was causing confusion in the marketplace.

Working with iLaw on a contingent (‘no win no fee’) basis, they were able to quickly identify the client’s objectives. Together with iLaw they explored an alternative to time consuming and costly litigation, namely selling their mark to the US company.

iLaw was able to leverage the scale of the potential claim for trade mark infringement against the opponent to secure a negotiated settlement involving the assignment of the registered trade mark to the opponent in return for a substantial sum.

The retailer was able to use this money to expand its business under a new brand.

Mark Culbert, Managing Partner of iLaw and a specialist IP solicitor, said: “When entering into a trade mark dispute it is essential for a business to consider not only what it might win at Court, but also what other commercial deals might be available”.

“In this case, the smaller UK retailer quickly recognised that there was more to gain from selling its mark in return for a substantial sum than engaging in a lengthy High Court claim”.

Mark said that in all cases infringements needed to be handled promptly so that action could be sought before a brand could be irreparably damaged.

“We deal with a wide variety of infringements every year and no two cases are ever the same,” said Mark. “It is essential that businesses seek professional assistance sooner rather than later once they have identified a potential threat to their brand so that decisive action can be taken if no deal is possible.”

If you would like help or advice with any issues relating to intellectual property matters, please contact us.


Employers and agencies face onerous tasks under latest IR35 proposals, warns iLaw

Employers and agencies face onerous tasks under latest IR35 proposals, warns iLaw

iLaw’s head of employment law has warned that the latest proposals and guidance for IR35 will leave many employers with a considerable amount of additional work and responsibility.

The draft bill, released earlier this year and the guidance provided last month, has confirmed a lot of things, such as the small business exemption, and added new tasks and checks for employers.

However, two changes in particular could be extremely burdensome for employers. The first of these is the introduction of the status determination statement.

This will require end-clients, i.e. those using the services of contractors, to provide a statement which says whether or not it believes IR35 applies to both the contractor and the party directly engaging the workers.

Within this statement they must give their reasoning for reaching their decision, which can be challenged.

If this is not provided then the company will be classed as the fee-payer and responsible for deducting the appropriate tax and NIC from the contractor before it is paid to HMRC.

Reflecting on the change, Julian Cox, Head of Employment at iLaw, said: “This seems to be an attempt by HMRC to prevent the use of blanket determinations, which I am sure most contractors will welcome.

“It will, however, place a lot of pressure on companies to make these difficult determinations, which is going to be harder in large organisation that uses a lot of agency workers and consultants.”

Julian said that for agencies, this new rule may create another issue in that it may affect regulations surrounding limited company opt outs.

Legislation created in 2003 by the European Union offered contractors the opportunity to opt out of certain workers’ rights regulations.

By opting out, agencies have been able to use contracts that contain provisions that would otherwise be enforced by the regulations, such as withholding pay where work has not been done properly, and charging transfer fees beyond the regulatory limits.

Meanwhile, contractors benefit from being able to offer more attractive working arrangements that would otherwise not be possible.

However, where an employer decides that a person should be included within IR35 and paid via PAYE they will no longer have the option to ‘opt out’.

Julian said: “Agencies will be forced to change their procedures and, in some cases, their contracts.

“They need to take this into consideration now before the IR35 rules come into place and speak with contractors and their clients to ensure they are happy with these arrangements.”

The other main concern, accord to iLaw, is the introduction of a client-led disagreement process. This should give contractors an opportunity to overturn what they view as inaccurate determinations, by allowing them to request the reason for a determination.

The end client will then have 45 days to respond and must provide its reasons for the original determination.

The end client will also be required to either confirm or change its decision. If they fail to respond then they will then become the fee-payer, meaning that all liability will transfer to them.

“What the legislation doesn’t make clear is what happens if a contractor is still unhappy with a determination after is has been reviewed, which is creating additional uncertainty for contractors,” Julian added.

“Although a final consultation ended on these changes on 5 September, we may not have these arrangements confirmed until the Chancellor’s next budget, and they could be dropped depending on the outcome of a general election,” added Julian.

He said growing political uncertainty meant that nothing was certain, but he says that everyone invested in consultancy and contracting must ensure they are prepared for IR35.

For help and advice on all aspects of employment law, including the new IR35 rules, please contact us.