Just before Christmas, the Employment Appeals Tribunal delivered a landmark decision affecting UK discrimination law: Steer v Stormsure Limited. The case could see interim relief introduced as a new remedy in discrimination claims for claimants who have been dismissed for alleged discriminatory reasons.
An interim relief application is similar to an interim injunction application in civil courts. It either sees the claimant reinstated/re-engaged or, more usually, their employment contract is simply continued for pay and benefits purposes until the case comes on for hearing in the tribunal. Whether or not the claimant is ultimately successful at that hearing does not matter as they do not have to repay any of the pay and benefits received either way. Successful interim relief applications are not easy. They have to be made within seven days of dismissal and, to be successful, the claimant has to show they are “likely” to win their case at the final hearing. Given, however, the massive impact of a successful interim relief application, they are a hugely effective potential weapon.
Currently, interim relief applications are only available in whistleblowing and certain other types of claim, but not under our discrimination law. In the Steer case, the EAT held that it was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights for the remedy to be available to a dismissed whistleblower but not to an individual dismissed for alleged discriminatory reasons. The EAT did not have the power to declare UK law to be incompatible with the Convention, and so the case will now go to the Court of Appeal. If the decision is upheld there, the Court of Appeal can issue a declaration of incompatibility, meaning the UK Government will have to amend our discrimination law to introduce the interim relief remedy.
For a more in-depth look at the case, please see our recent podcast: https://www.mayerbrown.com/en/perspectives-events/podcasts/2021/01/episode-201–a-view-from-mayer-brown