June and July's top five employment law cases

People Management runs through the most-read tribunals of the last two months – from holiday pay allowances to protected disclosures

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1. Part-year workers entitled to full-time paid holiday allowance, Supreme Court rules

Following legal claim that went on for several years, the Supreme Court ruled that workers on part-year contracts, such as term-time-only teachers, could be entitled to back pay.

The judgment means that employees working under such arrangements must receive the same amount of paid annual leave as those working a full year, and organisations that previously calculated holiday pay on a pro rata basis could be liable for claims of underpayment.

Upholding a previous decision by the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Ms L Brazel, a part-time visiting music teacher employed by Harpur Trust, which runs Bedford Girls’ School, who works irregular hours during term-time only, and argued that she should be entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday – the minimum stipulated under the Working Time Regulation (WTR) – despite only working some weeks of the year.

2. Nurse was unfairly dismissed for ‘unacceptable’ number of sick days, tribunal finds

A tribunal found that a senior nurse who was sacked for her “unacceptable” sickness absence record caused by migraines, anxiety and depression was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against.

The Leicester hearing centre heard that Ms McKenzie, who was the sole carer for her elderly grandmother, suffered from severe headaches, depression and anxiety, which are considered disabilities.

However, the tribunal found that the failure of her employer, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, to adjust absence targets meant McKenzie had no allowance for any absences beyond those caused by her disability.

3. Caretaker successfully claims long Covid as disability in landmark tribunal case

A charity caretaker became one of the first people to successfully claim that their symptoms of long Covid amounted to a disability.

An employment tribunal heard that Mr T Burke was dismissed on “ill-health grounds” after he was unable to work for nine months after suffering substantial and long-term side effects from Covid-19, which he first contracted in November 2020.

However, Burke claimed he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the basis of disability and age – with his disability being long Covid – adding that his employer failed to provide a redundancy payment.

While the tribunal has not yet passed judgement on whether Burke’s dismissal was unfair, in a preliminary hearing it ruled that, in this instance, Burke’s long Covid did amount to a disability under the Equality Act.

4. Knitwear designer awarded £96k for unfair dismissal and age discrimination

A knitwear designer was awarded more than £96,000 after a tribunal ruled she was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of age.

The Bristol employment tribunal heard that Ms Rachel Sunderland had been repeatedly passed over for promotion in favour of younger colleagues, and was forced to resign after becoming ill with stress.

It found Superdry’s criteria for promotion were “flawed” and used “ambiguous if not positively misleading terminology”. A claim of harassment relating to age was also upheld.

5. Cleaner unfairly dismissed after making protected disclosures about working conditions, tribunal rules

A tribunal ruled that a cleaner was automatically unfairly dismissed after he made protected disclosures through his union about working conditions.

The Watford Tribunal heard that Mr Hernandez was dismissed for “poor performance” after he raised concerns about safety at work and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic.

The judge said the real reason for Hernandez's dismissal was because his employer was “annoyed he had raised protected disclosures and used his trade union in order to do so, and was punishing him as a result”.