Law Society: Govt should investigate self-employment practices

Wednesday 28 June 2017

The government should be able to investigate businesses and sectors in order to stop businesses from incorrectly labelling staff as self-employed. 

This is the view of the Law Society, which has recommended scrapping employment tribunal fees and believes every worker should be given a written clarification of their employment status.

In order to protect staff from being mislabelled, the organisation wants the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) to be given the responsibility to investigate the employment status of staff in companies across the country. 

The GLAA already has powers to monitor food and farming operators and check that businesses in the agriculture and horticulture sectors meet licensing standards covering health and safety, accommodation, pay, transport and training. 

Many companies such as Uber and Deliveroo regard their staff as independent contractors, which is leading to worries that millions of people are in insecure roles without holiday pay, sick pay or pension contributions.

The Law Society wants a comprehensive review of employment legislation along with clearer definitions of categories. It also calls for companies to confirm the status of employees in writing.

Self-employed professionals may be left unsure about their employment status, so it could be advisable to use a freelancer or contractor accountant to make sure they are taxed properly.

These specialists can also provide help with general financial decisions to ensure your finances are as sound as possible. 

Law Society president Robert Bourns said: “Our rights at work are not optional – they are the minimum standard to which we are entitled. 

“Our law relies on individuals taking their employer to court to get their rights recognised – a task that is simply beyond most people. Bad employers know this and take advantage of it to cut corners and underpay people, knowing they’ll probably get away with it.”
Mr Bourns explained that an independent contractor who can go into a company to make sure staff are provided with proper workplace rights would help to end the “exploitation”.

It is hoped that the the Taylor Review, which was ordered by the government in 2016, will provide answers to how self-employed staff can benefit from more security. 

The project visited several areas of the country to investigate the scale of the gig economy and understand why specialists choose it as a way of working. 

The results from the study are set to be released in the next few weeks. 

By Victoria McDonnell

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