It is critical to determine employment status so that both the individual and the employer are aware of their rights and duties. The importance of determining whether a person is an employee, worker, or self-employed is becoming evident, requiring expertise with complicated legislation and decades of case law for some people (Whiteside, 2021). Sometimes, an individual’s work status is only established after a disagreement with their employer reaches the labor court. Many individuals are hesitant to take this step, even though the employment status law allows labor courts to make fair and educated judgments based on the data they have.
As a result, a well-functioning labor market requires giving both individuals and businesses the knowledge they require ahead of time. It is vital to examine and critically analyze the status of employment legislation challenges in order to better comprehend some of the challenges. Furthermore, the government might construct a framework that achieves the correct balance between individual rights and economic demands in a number of ways (Tassinari and Maccarrone, 2020). The individual and the employer will have a variety of rights and duties depending on the nature of the employment stance (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). In most cases, the court must demonstrate the presence of one of the necessary employment contracts given by law in order to determine the status of employment. In the lack of a legal definition of the main features of the parties’ connection, the court does so by applying basic principles of contract law and domestic case law and assessing the genuine nature of the relationship based on the case (Whiteside, 2021). Over many decades, this legislative framework has changed to meet the problems it faced. It continues to evolve, responding to the changing types of employment, and it is anticipated to continue its adaptation in the coming years as a result of the framework’s high level of flexibility.
Establishing an individual’s job status is critical since it impacts the individual’s eligibility for certain statutory rights. Employee, worker, and self-employed are said to be the three most common employment statuses under the legislation (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). When all the facts are considered, most types of professional relationships will fall into one of these categories (Behling, 2018). The Labor Rights Act of 1996 and other employment legislation define the terms “employee” and “worker” (Whiteside, 2021). However, while “self-employed” is not an official employment status, it is occasionally used as a description for certain types of employment connections (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). This shows that these categories were established, not taking into account current flexible working conditions.
Labor laws controlling basic labor interactions have changed over time. However, at their core, they are still based on the “owner and servant” assumptions of the previous century (Behling, 2018). Given the variety of job connections that might exist in a flexible labor market like the UK, a principle-based approach has been developed that links employment rights to specific employment arrangements (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). This implies that, in the modern world, an employment tribunal can apply these principles to any sort of work relationship and reach a proper conclusion based on the facts.
Growing concern over unions’ role and escalating strike rates in the 1960s prompted some to contemplate the need for a fresh strategy. In response, the government settled a Commission on Trade Unions and Employers’ Associations (Behling, 2018). In 1968, Donovan’s concluding report was released, followed by a government statement titled “Instead of Discord,” which sought to explain industrial relations policy (Whiteside, 2021). As a result, beginning in the 1970s, further legislation granting legal rights to persons working in the United Kingdom was introduced (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). This was mainly to guarantee that everyone, whether or whether they were a union member, had a baseline set of rights (Behling, 2018). The Employment Rights Act of 1996 codified much of this, including legislative definitions of “employee” and “worker” and an evaluation of the individual situation (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). This Act, thus, became the cornerstone of the status of employment legislation.
The existing legislative system has a number of advantages. Because principle-based tests for determining status can be ambiguous, the labor tribunal has the flexibility to consider the facts of the case (Teague and Donaghey, 2018). This is more beneficial than pre-determined procedures that do not properly reflect the facts (Freedland and Dhorajiwala, 2019). This implies it may be tailored to a wide range of evolving work arrangements, so if something resembles an employment contract, even if the basic requirements are not satisfied, the tribunal may rule that it is (Behling, 2018). As a result, this principles-based approach is relatively forward-looking, as it provides the courts with enough flexibility to react to changing conditions.
However, as a result of this system, some employees and workers do not really understand their employment status until a labor court judgment is reached. Furthermore, because the current system was created in reaction to historical development, courts are increasingly evaluating rulings that have little relevance to current cases (Freedland and Dhorajiwala, 2019). While the existing system’s application to some unusual working situations is currently problematic, it is only going to get more complex as employment arrangements change.
The existing employment status law system works on the assumption that a contract does not exist unless it is verified. When people go to a labor court to assert their rights, the courts first look to see if there is an employment or service contract (whichever law applies) (Behling, 2018). If the court cannot determine the sort of contract that is necessary, the case is dismissed since the labor legislation in question does not apply (Tassinari and Maccarrone, 2020). This obligation to show the existence of a contract might make some parties to unconventional agreements unsure of their rights and hesitant to continue ahead. One way ahead would be to try to modify this assumption and establish a future system around the assumption that everybody working in the UK is entitled to the entire set of employment rights, with the exception of certain employment arrangements that require special treatment. Further assumptions and research are necessary to fully comprehend how labor courts might operate under such a basis.
The current structure can theoretically adapt to the changes that will occur in the future. However, one unintended consequence of this flexibility is a lack of clarity. As unconventional employment grows in popularity, more individuals will be affected. This lack of clarity can lead to certain employers wanting to profit from the exploitation of low-wage workers in the most severe circumstances. The employment status law encompasses a complicated framework, and reforming it will be difficult. It is still unclear if fundamental change is the best solution, and it is feasible that the issues may be handled with less extreme reforms while maintaining a high level of flexibility.
Behling, F. (2018) Welfare Beyond the Welfare State. Cham, CH: Palgrave MacMillan.
Freedland, M. and Dhorajiwala, H. (2019) ‘UK response to new trade Union strategies for new forms of employment’, European Labour Law Journal, 10(3), pp. 281-290.
Tassinari, A. and Maccarrone, V. (2020) ‘Riders on the storm: Workplace solidarity among gig economy couriers in Italy and the UK’, Work, Employment and Society, 34(1), pp. 35-54.
Teague, P. and Donaghey, J. (2018) ‘Brexit: EU social policy and the UK employment model’, Industrial Relations Journal, 49(5), pp. 512-533.
Whiteside, N. (2021) ‘Before the Gig Economy: UK Employment Policy and the Casual Labour Question’, Industrial Law Journal, 50(4), pp. 610-635.