Welcome to Employment Edit, our pick of the key employment law developments from the last couple of weeks:

  • Race discrimination – an instruction to an employee not to speak Russian at work has been held by the EAT not to be direct race discrimination or harassment. The employer’s policy of requiring its employees to speak English at a laboratory involved in animal testing was in order for its English-speaking managers to understand conversations for security reasons and it was reasonable to ask the employee, who had been acting suspiciously, to refrain from speaking in her native language so that her conversations in the workplace could be understood. Kelly v Covance Laboratories Ltd.
  • Personal messages at work – The European Court of Human Rights has held that it was not unreasonable for an employer to monitor personal communications under workplace rules. Although Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence) applies to an employee’s use of the internet at work, there was no violation of this right where an employee had been dismissed for using the company’s internet for personal purposes during working hours and the evidence was used to decide whether the dismissal was justified. B?rbulescu v Romania.
  • Zero hours contracts – from 11 January 2016 new protection came into force for zero hours contract workers. The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 make any dismissal of a zero hours contract employee automatically unfair, if the principal reason is that the employee breached an exclusivity clause prohibiting him or her from working for another employer. There is no qualifying period for this claim. Employees and workers also have the right not to be subjected to a detriment if they work for another employer in breach of an exclusivity clause.
  • Data protection – The European Data Protection Supervisor has published two new sets of guidelines on personal data and electronic communications and personal data in mobile devices. The guidelines are aimed at the EU institutions and bodies but other organisations interested in data protection, electronic communications and mobile devices might find them useful.