Law Society responds to BEIS Committee’s inquiry into the future world of work

Written by Brabners LLP

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee launched an inquiry in October 2016 into the future of the world of work and the rights of workers. The BEIS Committee’s inquiry covers a number of areas and asked for comments on questions such as:

  • “What should be the status and rights of agency workers, casual workers and the self-employed… for the purposes of tax, benefits and employment law?”
  • “What specific provision should there be for the protection and support of agency workers and those who are not employees?”
  • “Is there any evidence that businesses are treating agency workers unfairly, compared with employees?”
  • “Should there be steps taken to constrain the use by businesses of agency workers?”

The Law Society recently responded to the BEIS Committee’s call for evidence on how employment rights apply within the rapidly changing work environment. The Law Society put forward its recommendations, including for example:

  • The current employment legislative framework puts too much onus on the individual to assert that they are being exploited. The Committee should consider whether some businesses should have to show that they comply with certain employment legislation, such as national minimum wage requirements;
  • Employment status is not sufficiently defined in law at present and there should be a re-appraisal of relevant legislation;
  • It would be helpful if plain language guidance could be produced that would help people judge when they should be considered an employee, a worker or self-employed;
  • Employment tribunal fees should be reformed as they hamper access to justice.

In addition, the Law Society president Robert Bourns said “It is abundantly clear that employment laws designed for the middle of the 20th century are failing to serve many of us in the 21st century.”

While there is no easy solution, shifting the onus from employees having to argue for their employment rights to employers having to prove their compliance with the law could be an important starting point to this process.”

If taken up, the proposal mentioned by Mr Bourns could operate in the same way as workplace health and safety laws, where an employer must be able to prove their compliance with minimum standards when requested.

The results of this inquiry will undoubtedly make interesting reading. The current focus on this area could well result in major reforms being made to employment law as we know it, particularly in relation to the rights and status of atypical workers.

The deadline for submissions was 19 December 2016 and evidence sessions will be held this year.

 

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