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Profession calls for ‘bold and far reaching’ employment review

By Max Walters

An independent review of employment practices should be bold, far-reaching and not afraid to suggest a re-writing of law, the profession has said ahead of its expected publication.

Employment solicitors and the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service (ACAS) said much clearer guidance is needed to enable employers to know their rights and employees to make better decisions.

The review of modern employment practices is being carried out by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and is expected to be published shortly.

Taylor has already indicated that he wants to clarify who is defined as an employee, a worker and an independent contractor.

In its official response to the review, published today, ACAS said calls to its helpline revealed confusion and uncertainty around employment status and rights for those involved – including in the so-called gig economy.

Sir Brendan Barber, chair of ACAS, said: ‘Clear and accessible guidance that allows people to make an informed choice before entering into these types of working arrangements would greatly help the situation.’

Employment practices in ‘gig economy’ businesses have been under increased scrutiny recently. The GMB trade union has started separate legal cases against several businesses it believes are treating workers as self-employed contractors and not staff.

Leon Deakin, head of employment at regional firm Coffin Mew, told the Gazette a complete review and ‘potential overhaul’ of the way in which we determine employment status was long overdue. ‘To be of real use the Taylor review must be far reaching and also be prepared to be bold in their recommendations,’ he said.

‘Specifically, it should comment clearly on whether the three categories of “employee”, “worker” and “self-employed” remain fit for purpose.’

He added that he was pleased that the review is expected to look specifically at the reasons people take up working in the gig economy.

International firm Taylor Vinters called on the government to clearly define employment statuses and create a solution where workers’ rights and innovative business models are not mutually exclusive.

Partner Dominic Holmes said: ‘The concepts of “employee”, “worker” and “self-employed” need to be clearly defined, so the rules of the game are understood by all.’

He added that the definition of worker, as ‘someone that has a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward,’ no longer meets the requirements of the future world of work and should be narrowed.

In its submission to the Taylor Review, the Law Society said independent inspectors should be brought in to probe whether businesses are breaking employment laws or exploiting staff.

According to reports today, food delivery firm Deliveroo said it will pay sickness and injury benefits to its UK riders if the law is changed. The BBC said the firm said the current law prevents it from offering enhanced rights because it classifies its riders as self-employed.

It said it uses that classification to provide its riders with the flexibility to work when they want and that employment rules should be changed so that people who work for similar companies can receive enhanced benefits and not lose flexibility.

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)