Governance: OfS and standard student contract templates

The Office for Students (OfS), which is the main regulator of higher education in England, has been asked by the Department for Education to consider options for setting out students’ consumer rights in the form of standard contract templates. In a letter to OfS dated 16 September 2019 and titled ‘Strategic Guidance to the Office for Students – Ministerial priorities’, the Education Secretary for England stated: ‘Working with partners such as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education and the Competition and Markets Authority, as well as with other experts in the field, I would like the OfS to review the effectiveness of current practice ensuring students’ consumer rights are supported, and in particular to consider options for standard contractual templates setting out these rights.’ According to the letter, the OfS is asked to report its conclusions on the matter of standard contractual templates and make initial recommendations to the government by February 2020. Amongst other matters, the letter also proposes further reforms to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF), stating: ‘…I would like the OfS to publish subject level TEF in 2021. This should be alongside the implementation of a new TEF model to be developed following the publication of the government response to the Dame Shirley Pearce’s Independent Review of TEE undertaken under Section Read Full Article…

Employment: NI Court of Appeal: reasonable adjustments and autism

In British Telecommunications PLC v Kevin Owen Meier [2019] NICA 43 the Northern Ireland (NI) Court of Appeal considered whether an employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to a psychometric test in relation to a neuro-diverse job applicant. Mr Meier graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a 2.1 degree in computer science.  He has a high IQ.  He has Asperger’s Syndrome, dyslexia and dyspraxia.  During his educational career he had the benefit of note-takers for classes, scribes, a prompter, an Asperger’s mentor and extra time for examinations.  In March 2017 he applied for a job with British Telecommunications PLC (BT), who had advertised network design and engineering opportunities for graduates. BT is a member of the Disability Confident Scheme (DCS), which aims at helping organisations to employ and retain people with disabilities.  DCS members are expected to take active steps to attract and recruit applicants with disabilities, and to provide a fully inclusive and accessible recruitment process.  Under its ‘Guaranteed Interview Scheme’, BT guaranteed to interview any applicant with a disability whose application met the minimum criteria for the position.  ‘Minimum criteria’ meant ‘evidence in the application form which demonstrates that the (applicant) generally meets the level of competence required for each competence as well as meeting any of the qualifications skills or experience defined as essential.’ BT’s graduate Read Full Article…

Procurement: Time limit for claims and disclosure obligations

In Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust v Cornwall Council [2019] EWHC 2211 (TCC), the Technology and Construction Court (the ‘Court’) considered a claim brought by the incumbent provider, the Trust, under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (the ‘PCR’) against the Council. The Council published a contract notice in the Official Journal of the European Union inviting tenders for three separate contracts to provide sexual health services in Cornwall (‘the new contract’).  The contract notice and the tender documents provided that the new contract would be for seven years and would have a value of £2,500,000 per annum (‘financial cap’) with the exception of year one where an additional £100,000 was available for the implementation of a new digital platform. The Trust’s view was that the services to be provided under the new contract were materially the same as those it was providing under its current contract, and therefore could not be provided for less than about the £2.88m per annum that it spent in providing those services.  The Trust obtained the tender documents and claimed that it had undertaken a significant amount of work to determine whether it should submit a bid, however, it ultimately decided not to do so, and informed the Council accordingly.  Its reasons were that it could not satisfy the service specification within the financial cap Read Full Article…

Charity: Charity Commission updates guidance on exempt charities

The Charity Commission guidance on exempt charities (CC23) has been updated to include current details of principal regulators, and information related to regulations that have recently come into force. Exempt charities are institutions that have charitable status and must comply with general charity law, but unlike other charities they: cannot register with the Charity Commission (Commission) are not directly regulated by the Commission and instead have (or will have) a principal regulator, ie a body or authority responsible for regulating the charity under a specific legal framework may only be investigated by the Commission as part of a statutory inquiry at the request of their principal regulator The great majority of higher education institutions (HEIs) in England are ‘exempt charities’.  The principal regulator of exempt charity HEIs (and of charities that are their ‘connected institutions’) is the Office for Students (OFS).  A complete list of English HEIs that are regulated by the OFS as exempt charities is included in Annex B, OFS Regulatory advice 5: exempt charities.  All HEIs in Wales and the remaining HEIs in England are regulated directly by the Commission.  The charitable status and activities of Scottish HEIs are regulated by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). The updated Commission guidance reflects the amendments to Schedule 3 to the Charities Act 2011, introduced by the Higher Education and Read Full Article…

Employment: Government launch consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace

The Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.  The consultation, which was published on 11 July 2019, follows the Government’s response to the report on sexual harassment in the workplace by the Women and Equalities Select Committee in December 2018. The consultation is split into a set of online questions, which are designed to be quick and easy for anyone to respond to, and a more technical document that invites views on details of the law. Views are sought particularly from those who have experienced sexual harassment or other types of discrimination at work, including volunteers and interns, those who have managed or supported someone who has experienced sexual harassment or other types of discrimination at work, and  anyone who has thought about taking a case of any type of discrimination or harassment to an employment tribunal. Particular issues that may be able to be dealt with are the following: How best to make sure employers take all the steps they can to prevent harassment from happening Strengthening and clarifying the law so that it is clear employers should protect their staff from being harassed by clients, customers, or other people from outside their organisation Whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected by current laws Whether people should be given longer to take a Read Full Article…

Data protection: ICO’s updated data sharing code of practice

The Information Commissioner (ICO) published a ‘consultation on the draft data sharing code of practice’ on 16 July 2019.  The ICO is required by the Data Protection Act 2018 to update its data sharing code of practice, which was published in 2011.  The ICO had launched a call for views in August 2018. The updated draft code seeks to address these views and explains and advises on data protection legislation where it is relevant to data sharing.  Some of the aspects covered are: transparency, lawful bases for processing, the new accountability principle, and the requirement to record processing activities.  It also provides practical guidance and good practice advice in the sharing of personal data. The consultation questions are as follows, and respondents are invited to provide further comments or suggestions: Does the updated code adequately explain and advise on the new aspects of data protection legislation which are relevant to data sharing? If not, please specify where improvements could be made. Does the draft code cover the right issues about data sharing? If no, what other issues would you like to be covered in it? Does the draft code contain the right level of detail? If no, in what areas should there be more detail within the draft code? Has the draft code sufficiently addressed new areas or developments in Read Full Article…