Changing workplace is a challenge for employers

16th January 2017

Changing workplace is a challenge for employers

‘Working nine to five, what a way to make a living’, sang Dolly Parton – but, for many of us, the traditional office hours are a thing of the past.

With the rapid emergence of innovative, technology-driven business models, the last decade has seen huge changes in the way people work and the relationship they have with their employers.

The increasing complexity around how we earn a living makes employment law a particular challenge for businesses. Already this year, we have seen a potentially landmark case that could have significant implications for companies that rely on the so-called ‘gig economy’.

A tribunal found that Maggie Dewhurst, a bicycle courier with logistics firm City Sprint, should be classed as a worker rather than self-employed. As a worker, she would be entitled to basic rights including holiday and sick pay and the national living wage.

The case highlights the working practices of the gig economy, where people are employed by companies on a job-by-job basis. It is the first of four legal challenges being taken against courier companies, which include Addison Lee, Excel and E-Courier.

The case follows a similar ruling against the taxi-hailing service Uber in October last year, which found that drivers should be classed as workers rather than self-employed. Uber intends to appeal.

Gotelee employment law expert Andrew West said: “The decision in the case of Maggie Dewhurst vs City Sprint will apply only to her personally, but it puts such working practices under the spotlight, especially in the so-called ‘gig economy’, where people are employed by companies on a job-by-job basis.

“But the issues involved can equally apply in many other sectors where companies may be trying to optimise their staffing, if they do not realise the distinctions between an employee, a worker and a self-employed contractor. A number of cases are now working their way through the courts and I expect we’ll see this topic in the headlines throughout 2017.”

Alongside, the Government is moving to crack down on unscrupulous employers to stamp out exploitation in the workplace, after several companies hit the headlines for poor practices in recent months, including reports that workers at Sports Direct were receiving less than the national minimum wage and being subjected to humiliating working practices.

How can our Employment Law Solicitors help?

Employers, more than ever before, need sound and clear employment law advice to help them to protect their employees when things are going well and to protect themselves when relations break down.

When grievances and disputes with staff happen they take priority, regardless of the distraction this may cause you. If you don’t handle them correctly, there’s a real risk that you will end up in the Employment Tribunal.

Our specialist Suffolk solicitors, based in Ipswich, Melton, Hadleigh, Felixstowe and Woodbridge, act for businesses large and small in Suffolk, Essex and further afield.

To find out more about how we can help you, contact us on 01473 298126 or email andrew.west@gotelee.co.uk

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Employment Law
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