Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. One year on from the President’s Club dinner in London and some 15 months since Alyssa Milano kick-started the #MeToo movement on Twitter in October 2017, some have questioned what has actually changed in practice. After all, there has been no culture-changing legislation as we have had in recent years with disability and age, and the concept of sexual harassment has existed since the 1980s.
The instance of Ted Baker offers some important lessons to other employers as they seek to update their approach in a post-#MeToo era. One can only imagine what it was like for the HR department at Ted Baker last week, where the employee petition against a ‘forced hugs policy’ has focused much attention on the company’s culture.
Leaving aside the Brexit debacle, something that is keeping many employers awake at night these days is the risk of data loss and consequential liability. The introduction of the GDPR in May of this year has (rightly) concentrated minds on this area, and a salutory decision of the Court of Appeal in WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc v Various Claimants on 22 October 2018 is not going to provide much comfort in that respect. It has significant consequences for all employers whose employees have access to important data.
The case of Hargreaves v Manchester Grammar serves as a useful reminder for employers of how to carry out a reasonable investigation, particularly when the employee in question is facing potentially career changing consequences as a result of the allegations. In this case the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that it was reasonable for the employer to withhold the evidence of potential witnesses who “had seen nothing” - the Tribunal had been entitled to make this finding and reject the employee’s claim of unfair dismissal.
The FCA has been determined to drive cultural change in financial services for some years now. Since the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards published their seminal report ‘Changing banking for good’ in 2013 there has been a concerted drive to improve the culture of financial services, to avoid future financial scandals, and ensure accountability and responsibility for risk management, compliance and wrongdoing from the top down.