The gig economy describes the employment contracts done by individuals on a temporary or specific project basis rather than being a full-time employee.
The delivery network City Sprint had classed Maggie Dewhurst, a courier for the firm, as self-employed or an independent contractor, rather than a worker or employee. Because of this status she was not allowed sick pay, holiday pay or a guaranteed wage, despite having worked for the firm for two years.
Big firms such as Uber, CitySprint, Addison Lee, Deliveroo and Excel tend to consider their employees as self-employed rather than workers in order to avoid giving them the employment rights due to an employee. These rights include being paid the national minimum wage, getting the statutory minimum level of paid holidays and rest breaks. The fact that self-employed workers do not have the rights of those with employment contracts can be very convenient for these big firms.
The Employment Tribunal judged that Maggie Dewhurst’s contract in fact gave her worker status. Which therefore affords her many more employment rights than she had previously. While Uber intends to appeal, CitySprint has not clarified its position yet. In the UK, the firm currently has 3500 independent contractors, Maggie’s case could therefore lead to many other claims. It seems fair that these physical and intense jobs should have some sort of protection. While the gig economy can be considered a very innovative and productive way of working, it can lead to one party taking a advantage of the other. It appears that the law is not adapted to this new way of working, as the number of claims relating to the gig-economy is rising. CitySprint has 42 days since the day of the judgment to appeal, therefore we shall see the improvement made to the law in the following weeks.
While Uber intends to appeal, CitySprint has not clarified its position yet.
In the UK, the firm currently has 3,500 independent contractors, Maggie’s case could therefore lead to many other claims and the company will have to redraft its employment contracts, no doubt having to give up commercial advantages.
It appears that the law is not yet adapted to this new way of working, as the number of claims relating to the gig economy is rising.
CitySprint has 42 days from the day of the judgment to appeal, therefore we shall see the improvement made to the law in the following weeks and keep this article updated.
By Lily Wilde
Image used under CC courtesy of alx_chiefRead More
From time to time we will tell you about a Birmingham employment law case we have recently dealt with. This is the story of Francis, a window cleaner, and the discplinary process that led to his dismissal.
Francis was an employee in a multinational business that provides, among other services, window-cleaning to commercial customers.
Francis was caught on CCTV standing on an office chair to clean a window in a client’s prestige car showroom. This was a clear breach of Health and Safety policy and common sense. In a disciplinary process he said he did it because the firm did not provide him with a safe step-ladder.
In reality, a step-ladder was available, but it had not been inspected in over a year, which according to the firm’s health and safety policy should not have been used as it was not proved safe.
Francis had actually asked his employer for new, safe equipment several times before the incident. He had evidence of this as his colleagues had seen him asking for it in meetings.
So why did Francis take the risk of being caught breaching the health and safety policy? He said he was under pressure, as his employer threatened his employees to reduce their pay if a customer complained about their work.
After a disciplinary process, Francis was dismissed for gross misconduct. An important aspect of employment law is reasonableness. Francis’s dismissal seemed excessive and unfair, especially when Francis had been working for the company for over 13 years and had a clean disciplinary record.
Francis claimed that the company was trying to reduce jobs and saw an opportunity to replace a redundancy process with a disciplinary process. The theory that the firm was in financial difficulties explained things like equipment not being replaced, management not giving holiday pay to staff and the weekend pay being lower than promised.
The company’s position was that Francis had (by his own admission) breached the Health and Safety policy and that this justified his disciplinary process and dismissal. After appealing and going down the tribunal route, the employer agreed to pay Francis £7k in compensation for lost earnings after his dismissal.
What swung it for Francis is that he had witness evidence from a colleague showing that the equipment was faulty and that the firm was putting him under financial pressure, which could partially justify breaching the firm’s policy. This case shows that a claimant in a similar situation needs evidence to support his claim.
By Lily Wilde
Image used under CC courtesy of VictorRead More
The Dorchester, a five-star hotel in London, is yet another company to make the news for threatening staff with misconduct proceedings for not following a strict dress code (see our other articles here) and here. It has been reported that due to complaints about staff hygiene, female staff have been issued a dress code which asked them not to turn up to work with oily skin, bad breath or garish makeup. The dress code also requires that the female workers shave their legs, have manicured fingernails and to ensure that they do not have body odour.
The law of dress codes in the UK
Dress codes will vary from job to job. They may be set out by the company to represent the way in which it wants to present themselves to customers (eg business casual), or to create a business-like ethos (ties and pinstripe) or it may be for health and safety reasons (eg hair-nets and boots). It is commonplace for serious or repeated breaches of the dress code to be punished with disciplinary proceedings for misconduct.
Dress codes however should comply with the non-discrimination rules set out in the Equality Act 2010; these apply to age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
The law requires dress codes to be imposed to an equal degree. They may be different for both genders if this is consistent with societal expectations. So it is not automatically sex discrimination to make women wear skirts and men trousers. Or to ban men from wearing make-up. The courts will give a certain amount of discretion to employers in regards to dress code policies.
In fact, this runs contrary to the usual point of discrimination law, which is to prevent societal expectations from giving employers a defence. An employer cannot, for example, refuse to hire BME staff on the basis that its clients wouldn’t approve. In one case, a Mr Jarman won a case for discrimination for being disciplined for misconduct for wearing an earring, when female colleagues were able to wear earrings without facing any action.
Legal action to be taken against the Dorchester?
Employment lawyers warn employers that that dress code policies should be “reasonable and proportionate in nature” and should be related to the work that is being carried out. That is, whilst it might be okay to ask a receptionist to wear make-up, you wouldn’t ask that of a plumber.
Employment law provides that dress codes can be different in nature as long as they don’t impact disproportionately on one sex. However, in this case the female employees (who are being paid the living wage) are not given any additional pay to reimburse the cost of manicures or make-up. This is an argument that we look forward to seeing run at an employment tribunal.
By Emma Bonehill
Image used under CC courtesy of Trec_LitRead More
As the UK gets ready to leave the EU, some companies are preparing to leave the UK. Companies such as John Lewis and Ryanair have already said that they have made a loss since the plummet of sterling against the dollar. They fear that the worse is yet to come.
On the other hand, a pro-Brexit campaign group claims that leaving the EU could create 400,000 jobs. Some economists argue that this takes no account of the risks to exports.
The pound dropped to a record low against the dollar and Britain has borrowed over £12bn due to its fear of Brexit’s impact on public finances (£1bn more than experts predicted). Britain faces 2017 without a formal statement on the Government’s negotiating position and aspirations (perhaps understandably).
Government cuts have been all too familiar in recent years and it doesn’t appear that leaving the EU is going to benefit economic stability or the employment figures. Thousands of jobs could be jeopardy if many European companies based within the UK leave the country. Many companies fear the prospect of new taxes when trading with Europe if negotiations with the European council do not work in favour of Britain.
If Brexit proves economically costly, we will be faced with the question of whether spending will decrease or new taxes will be introduced in order to compensate.
Since the European Communities Act 1972 was passed the UK has benefitted from various aspects of being part of the EU which we now risk losing. Importing and exporting without tariffs is a huge economical benefit as it allows us to trade efficiently. Companies are hoping that Theresa May will be able to negotiate a retention of the trading advantages, though it is unclear whether she can offer anything that the EU values.
The High Court recently ruled that the Government cannot exit the EU without the support of the House of Commons (a decision which is being appealed to the Supreme Court). It remains to be seen whether this decision will withstand appeal and if it does, whether MPs will make their support conditional on the government succeeding in extracting any particular concessions from the EU.
By Ayesha Belaid
Part of our Brexit series.Read More