Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to step down as senior members of the Royal family throws up a number of interesting employment law issues. Harry with all the wealth and connections that he has means he has access to the best legal advice there is and Meghan with Harvey Spector’s mobile number in her pocket similarly has access to top notch legal advice. We discuss below some of the employment law issues that may arise.
Firstly it should be considered whether Harry and Meghan would be considered as “employees” or be found to have another kind of employment status within what Prince Phillip is reputed to call “the Firm”.
Generally, you can either be considered (1) an employee, (2) a worker, or (3) self-employed. Workers have been given increasing employment rights in recent years. This includes entitlement to the national minimum wage, holiday pay, protection against discrimination, and protection if they decide to “blow the whistle”. However, this does not include protection against unfair dismissal, flexible working rights, and statutory redundancy pay. Self-employed workers do not enjoy many of these rights apart from protection under health and safety regulations and from acts of discrimination. Someone is most likely to be considered as a worker if they more or less work for the same person or organisation regularly and are under their control when they do so, but can choose when they want to work. Given their extra-ordinary circumstances, it is doubtful that Harry and Meghan would be considered under any of these categories.
Wages & Unlawful deductions
One of their reasons for resigning from the Royal Family was that they wanted to become financially independent. Harry and Meghan are hardly going to be considered impecunious by any stretch of the imagination but should they find themselves in an ordinary job in the future, they like the rest of the working population, are entitled payment at the rate of the National Minimum wage and the National Living Wage (for their time spent in the UK).
The current rate for the national living wage and national minimum wage are (1) £8.21 for those who are 25 and over, (2) £7.70 for those who are between 21 – 24, (3) £6.15 for those who are between 18 – 20, (4) £4.35 for those under 18 and (5) £3.90 for an apprentice.
Anyone working in the UK and not being paid in accordance with the above rates are entitled to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. Not only can someone claim in a Tribunal but they can also report the matter to HMRC who annually name and shame employers who are deemed to not be paying the applicable wage rates. Whether or not Harry is going to report his granny for not paying his wages properly is another matter, and we doubt his salary would fall foul of National Minimum Wage regulations!
Working from Home and Flexible Working
One of the things that Harry and Meghan said they wanted to do following their resignation from the Royal Family was to split their time equally between the UK and Canada. Meghan is reputed to have a property in Toronto where she lived when working on “Suits”. Many employees throughout the world now are making use of working from home and flexible working policies. The benefits of these are said to be that employees can be more productive and this means that they can fit their work more easily around their family life. With a new-born, this sounds as if it would be an ideal practice for Harry and Meghan to adopt.
Despite these policies becoming more popular, you would only be able to work from home if there was specific provision for this in your contract of employment. However, you can still make a flexible working request to an employer. There is no guarantee that your employer will have to grant this request but they have to deal with it in a “reasonable” manner. Generally, all you need to do his have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and write to your employer (include the date along with a statement that you are making a “statutory request” for flexible working and details of what your flexible working proposal would be and how it would potentially affect your employer).
Just because you might be a Duke or Duchess, does not mean you get to escape the applicable time limits in employment law. At first, the time limit is three months minus one day from the date the act occurred that you wish to base your claim on (whether that be an unfair dismissal, act of discrimination, unlawful deduction from wages or anything else).
You then need to go through the ACAS Early Conciliation process. The ACAS Early Conciliation process then acts to extend the time limit by stopping the clock three month minus one day original time limit running.
If you are a worker or employee, or indeed an employer, that are affected by any of the challenges that Harry and Meghan may have to deal with, then get in touch with a specialist member of our employment team today.