Our continuing series of quick guides to major employment legislation, puts key information at your fingertips and brings you up to date with the latest developments. This week Simon Loy, employment law partner at Eversheds examines what effect the European Convention on Human Rights has had on domestic law six months after it was incorporated into the UK's Human Rights Act 1998.
The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law has been in force for just over six months. While the volume of claims the HRA has generated is not as extensive as predicted, there have been developments. References to articles below are to Convention articles.
Employment tribunal conduct of cases
The most tangible impact of the Act so far has been on the way in which tribunals are conducting cases. As public authorities under the HRA, tribunals must exercise their powers compatibly with the convention. The emerging message is that it is important for employers to consider carefully how their representatives conduct cases - particularly where unrepresented or vulnerable claimants bring proceedings.
Right to privacy
In one of the first reported cases, De Keyser v Wilson, 920010 EAT/1438/00, the employer faced a constructive dismissal claim arising out of Mrs Wilson's allegations of bullying by her area manager. Wilson claimed the area manager's actions had caused her to suffer depression.
A letter of instruction to an occupational health specialist prepared by the consultants representing the employer in the tribunal case expressed the view that the employer found Wilson "particularly easy to disbelieve." They went on to refer to other potential causes of stress in Wilson's private life, namely an unsuccessful custody battle and the alleged conviction of her lover with whom she was said to be having an adulterous affair. Wilson's allegations in her tribunal claim were also described as "cynical and vexatious".
The employment tribunal struck out the employer's grounds of resistance on the basis that the letter contravened Article 8 (respect for private and family life).
Reassuringly, however, the EAT overturned this decision which it regarded as "entirely disproportionate". Only in cases where a fair trial of the issues was not possible should a breach of Article 8 lead to the st