NationalsAug 16 2017

Employment law must be clearer to work

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Employment law must be clearer to work
ByPeter Done

Q: There has been a huge amount of media attention about the Taylor Review. What are key things from the review I need to know about?

A: The Conservative government tasked Matthew Taylor, from the Royal Society of Arts, with reviewing modern employment practices. The review was aimed at assessing how the legislation applied to new forms of working while garnering views from employers and workers about the current regime. Along with seven key recommendations for good work, the Taylor Review contains many proposals concerning the future of employment law in key areas. 

The review made recommendations regarding the future of employment status. This is an area of employment law that is seen as uncertain and ambiguous, and many employers struggle with applying the status tests. Since becoming more prolific due to the ‘gig economy’, Mr Taylor recommends that the government should make the legislation clearer and use secondary legislation to increase certainty.

The review goes further and suggests renaming the status of ‘worker’ to ‘dependent contractor’. In Mr Taylor’s opinion, worker is commonly misapplied and this new name will help determine which workers are controlled and supervised by a business. Dependent contractors should receive worker's rights, such as holiday pay and rest breaks, and should be paid an average of 120 per cent of the national minimum wage based on their output. 

Flexible working has also been placed under the spotlight in recent years, especially due to the substantial growth in zero-hours contracts. The review did not go as far as the Labour Party’s pledge to ban these contracts, but suggested that a statutory right for zero hours workers to request a guaranteed hours contract should be introduced once they have been in a role for 12 hours. The starting point for hours under these contracts would be based on an average of their weekly hours over this 12-month period. A similar statutory right to request a direct contract of employment from a hirer after being engaged with them for 12 months was also proposed for agency workers. The review suggested these requests should be considered in a reasonable manner. 

The Taylor Review reiterates that clarity of rights is only beneficial when workers can enforce these. As such, it recommends that a free, expedited tribunal process is introduced to determine employment status issues. It also proposes reversing the burden of proof in these cases, so in the future, it will be for the employer to prove that the worker is not on an dependent contract, for example.

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula