Thompsons has called the government’s review on modern employment practices, published last week, a “huge missed opportunity”. 

The review was launched ostensibly to consider the implications of new forms of work on workers’ rights and responsibilities as well as on employer freedoms and obligations. 

Instead, Thompsons says that not only are the recommendations “feeble”, but they will just add another layer of “unnecessary complexity” to UK employment law. 

The review sets out a number of principles which purport to address the challenges facing the UK labour market, embedded within the following recommendations: 

  • Develop legislation and guidance setting out the tests that need to be met to establish employee or dependent contractor status.
  • Extend the right to written particulars to all workers.
  • Develop legislation that allows agency workers and those on zero hours contracts the right to request to formalise the reality of the working relationship; and require companies to report on how many requests they have received (and agreed).
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees for individuals bringing claims to resolve their employment status; and put the onus on employers to show that a particular employment relationship does not exist.
  • Introduce more robust penalties to deal with employers who ignore court judgments.
  • Widen the remit of the Low Pay Commission so that it can make recommendations to Government on what needs to change (including National Minimum Wage rates). It should also work with employers, employees and stakeholders to promote “quality work” across all regions and sectors, focusing on driving productivity in the retail, care and hospitality sectors in the first instance
  • “Dependent contractors” (the review’s proposed named for workers) should have additional protections and firms should have stronger incentives to treat them fairly.
  • “Better work” should be achieved through responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations, as opposed to national regulation. 

Chief Executive of Thompsons Solicitors, Stephen Cavalier commented: “The proposal to replace worker status with a weaker dependent contractor status is unjustified, unnecessary and unworkable. The government should use existing definitions and the powers in existing legislation to extend employment rights to all workers and put the burden of proof squarely on the employer to prove that any individual worker should in fact be classed as self-employed. 

“Workers need proper rights. Employers need to know where they stand. There should be one category of worker and the Review has been a missed opportunity to correct both systemic unfairness for insecure workers and the deep-seated inequality in power between worker and employer.” 

Click to read the full report.