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Workers’ Rights, but who is a Worker?

In today’s modern workplace, where organisational boundaries are fluid and using a wide variety of labour is the norm, the status of our ‘workers’ is coming under greater scrutiny.

What do we mean by ‘status’ and why is this important?

In a straightforward example, where an employee works for an employer under a contract of employment, their employment status is that of an ‘employee’. Employees have a number of rights under the Employment Rights Act, of which most of us will be familiar with and which tend to be captured in the contract of employment.

We also understand the concept of a ‘self-employed’ worker where an individual or company sets up on their own and provides a service. However, there is also a ‘worker’ status, which describes someone (often an individual) who ‘works for’ a company with the following criteria:

  • Limited right to send someone else to do the work
  • Have to turn up, or engage in work, even if they don’t want to
  • They aren’t completing the work as part of their own limited company

When someone is deemed to be a “worker”, they acquire rights such as the right to be paid national minimum wage, as well as the right to be paid for holidays and receive statutory sick pay to cover periods of sickness.

This topic – often called the ‘gig economy’ – has wide reaching implications and has seen much media attention recently, in connection with cases such as Deliveroo delivery drivers and Uber taxi drivers, with cases continuing to be brought and most recently  affecting the foster care sector.

Recent case

Sarah Anderson is used by Hampshire County Council as a Foster Carer and has worked on their behalf for the last 4 years. Currently she does not have the rights as a “worker” and therefore not entitled to holiday pay amongst other benefits. Sarah is about to bring an employment tribunal case where she will fight to have foster carers reclassified allowing them access to the same benefits as workers, a position that the council refutes.

This has come about after a group of former and current foster carers voted in Westminster to join the Independent Union of Great Britain in a bid to receive increased employment rights back in September. The outcome of a tribunal headed by Sarah could lead to thousands of similar claims by foster carers all over the country.

It is clear that correctly categorising ‘a worker’, and therefore ensuring compliance with the law, is becoming increasingly important. With the release of the Taylor report earlier in the year, which focused on the Gig economy, the government and tribunal services are likely to see more and more cases like Sarah’s as people start to question their current employment situation.

If you would like to talk about your workforce and their employment rights or about any other HR issue contact us on 01302 341 344.

By Kris Kerins BSc (Hons) PGC (Tech Mgmt) – Risk Services Adviser

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