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Detailed Practice Notes written by our Professional Support Lawyers, guiding you through the key issues in each topic.
Other rights - overviewStudy or training
Most employees in businesses with 250 or more employees, who have been continuously employed for 26 weeks or more, have the statutory right to make a request to undertake study or training.
For a request to be valid, the purpose of the study or training (or both) in relation to which it is made must be to improve both:
the employee's effectiveness in the employer's business, and
the performance of the employer's business
The employer is obliged to consider such requests, and either agree them or hold a meeting (at which there is a right to be accompanied) to discuss them.
An employer may only refuse all or part of any such a request if it thinks that one or more of the listed permissible grounds for refusal applies.
In certain circumstances, an employee who has made a request for study or training can bring a complaint before the employment tribunal on the ground that the employer has not dealt with his request correctly.
Employees are also protected from being subjected to detriment or dismissal by their employer on account of their having sought to exercise the right.
For further information, see Study or training.
Employee medical records, reports and examinations
Access to details about an employee's health is governed by a number of pieces of legislation as well as the contract of employment.
Under the Data Protection Act 1998, information about an individual's health is 'sensitive personal data', and therefore attracts additional protection when it is being processed.
The Information Commissioner's Employment Practices Data Protection Code identifies a number of core principles with regard to employers processing details on individual's health, including:
that the privacy of health information will be respected
that employers wishing to collect and hold information on their workers' health should be clear about the purpose of doing so, and satisfied that this is justified
Some employment contracts provide that the employer may request the employee to undergo a medical examination. Where they do, an employee who refuses any such request may be in breach of contract, and/or open to misconduct charges.
If an employer requests and receives a medical report, the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 provides that the employee concerned is entitled to see it. This right usually excludes reports prepared by the employer's own doctor.
An employer may also ask an employee for a copy of the employee's health records, which employees can obtain (subject to some exceptions) under the Access to Health Records Act 1990. If the employer does make such a request, the records would normally have to provided to a health professional, albeit of the employer's choice.
Data subject access requests
Under the DPA 1998, an employee or worker (the data subject) is entitled to request a copy of information held by the employer about him. This also applies to anyone else about whom the employer, as a data controller, holds information.
The data subject is not entitled to a copy of all information held about him. The DPA 1998 only covers manual data, which is held in a 'relevant filing system', or data which is processed automatically. In practice this means any information held on computer and possibly also any manual files such as a personnel file. This can also extend to copies of any references subject to certain exceptions.
Any request for information must be made in writing, and a fee (currently £10) is payable. The employer must respond no later than 40 days after the request. The employer can decline to provide some or all of the information, but only on specific grounds including that the request would take a disproportionate effort to comply with.
Health and safety detriment
Employers have a common law and statutory duty to provide a safe and healthy environment for their employees to work in. A breach of this duty may give rise to statutory liability, amount to a breach of contract, and/or cause personal injury. It could also entitle an employee to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
An employee has a right not to suffer a detriment on the grounds of:
being a health and safety representative, or
having sought election as such a representative, or
having taken part in consultation on health and safety issues
An employee is also protected from suffering a detriment on the grounds of:
having brought a health and safety matter to the attention of the employer, or
having refused to work or continue to work on the grounds of serious and imminent danger, or
having taken steps to protect himself or others from danger
Where the detriment is dismissal, separate provisions apply which render the dismissal automatically unfair.
The remedy for suffering a detriment is such compensation as is just and equitable in the circumstances.
There are also other statutory health and safety measures, such as the Working Time Regulations.
If an employee does raise an issue of health and safety with the employer, this may amount to a protected disclosure under the whistleblowing provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Time off work to perform public duties
Under the ERA 1996 an employee is entitled to reasonable unpaid time off during working hours to carry out one of a prescribed number of public duties. These include acting as a Justice of the Peace and membership of:
a local authority
a statutory tribunal
a police authority
an independent monitoring board for a prison or a prison visiting committee
a relevant health body
a relevant education body
These bodies or authorities are specifically defined by the ERA 1996, which has led to some anomalies such as the Metropolitan Policy Authority not being included.
Time off for jury service is treated differently. There is no right to have time off, but instead there is a right to not suffer a detriment or dismissal for attending a summons to act as a juror, although not being paid whilst absent does not amount to a detriment.
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