The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has launched what it calls “a wide ranging employment review to help clarify and potentially strengthen the employment status of workers”. Those working through an agency might well be workers. The difference between employees and workers is terms of their employment rights are quite distinct, although the actual definition of a worker can be quite wooly.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, believes that there are up to a million people in Britain that are classed as workers rather than employees and that these people do not even know what their employment rights are. The review has been launched to determine the role of workers and to strengthen their rights in line with some of the rights currently enjoyed by employees, the right not to be unfairly dismissed or to receive redundancy pay for example.
Currently workers get very little in the way of protection, they are entitled to the national minimum wage and to holiday pay, but very little else and even this can be dubious as if the employer does not pay it the only recourse is to go through an employment tribunal, which could be quite expensive under the new rules.
The hardening of the rules on workers coupled with the attack on zero hours contracts and the extended rights for agency workers may mean that it is no longer as cost effective to use workers instead of direct employees. We already have legislation scheduled with regard to zero hours contracts and it would seem likely that following this review more legislation is on the cards.
Vince Cable’s other proposal at the Lib Dem Conference, to raise the pay of apprentices – click here for more – has already been put forward to the Low Pay Commission and we can expect a single rate for anyone aged 16-18 whether they are an apprentice and receiving training or not.
The press release can be found by clicking here.
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