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Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy - Law Society response

20 June 2017

At the end of 2016, the prime minister asked Matthew Taylor (chief executive of the Royal Society of the Arts) to lead a review into the ways in which employment practices need to change in order to keep pace with modern business models (the Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy). We support the review, as the time is ripe for government and public policy makers to build upon the current employment law framework to ensure that it is in tune with the evolving economy.

The Law Society's submission concentrates on the two key legal aspects of the review:

  • How to streamline the definitions around employment status, so it is easier for people to understand what rights apply to them;
  • How enforcement can be improved so vulnerable people can gain redress if unscrupulous employers operate outside the employment law framework.

In our submissions we make recommendations to ensure that employment law can help create better workplaces. Our main recommendations are:

  • There is an urgent need to reform how employment status is defined. The report suggests clearer definitions for the different employment statuses. All those in paid work must be given the assistance necessary to understand what rights they are entitled to, particularly those working outside of a written agreement. All those who pay for someone's labour need to know what responsibilities they have and what commitment can be demanded (page 6).
  • The Director of Labour Market Enforcement should be able to conduct inquiries, in a similar manner to the Competition and Markets authority via their market studies tool, into sectors, or the application of employment legislation, when it believes there are systematic issues that need exploring (page 15).
  • The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) should be given the responsibility to carry out an investigation to discover whether an organisation or group of organisations in a sector have correctly attributed employment status and clarified what rights and responsibilities exist. If an organisation disagrees with the GLAA's assessment, the matter should be referred to the Employment Tribunal (ET) for judgement (page 16).
  • The government should immediately scrap the current ET fee system, which, since its introduction, has undermined people‚Äôs ability to enforce their employment rights. Applying fees to the ET should not be considered until the HM Courts & Tribunals Service modernisation programme is concluded (page 17).
  • Organisations should be encouraged to be transparent about their employment practices, which will help to create fair competition and help level the playing field by ensuring that all businesses are fulfilling their legal obligations (page 18).