On 20 June 2017, the Law Society published its recommendations “How to achieve the best working practices in the modern workplace” in response to the government’s Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy (known as the Taylor Review).
In its report, the Law Society states that urgent reform of how employment status is defined is needed to help organisations and individuals comply with employment law and, essentially, to avoid exploitation of vulnerable workers. The Law Society states that a significant minority of employers are circumventing employment legislation such as the right to the national minimum wage and working time rights by mislabelling their workers as ‘self-employed’, affecting about 460,000 workers (citing research from Citizens Advice Bureau 2015).
To monitor compliance, the Law Society recommends that The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority be appointed to carry out inspections to discover whether an organisation or group of organisations in a sector have correctly attributed employment status and clarified what rights and responsibilities exist. If an organisation disagrees with the Inspector’s assessment, the matter should be referred to the Employment Tribunal for Judgment.
We can glean much about what this will look like from the experience of the Republic of Ireland.
The idea of Employment Inspectors is already well established in the Republic of Ireland. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) already has the power to order Inspections to monitor and enforce employment legislation including equality law, employment rights such as the national minimum wage, working time, holiday pay and employment permits (required by non-EEA nationals working in The Republic of Ireland). The WRC refers about 1,500 (or 10%) of cases for inspection each year. Inspectors have the power to interview employers and employees and power to seize and search employers’ records to check that they reflect the reality. If not, the Inspectors will work with the employer to achieve compliance. If the matter is more serious or repeated, Inspectors have the power to issue compliance notices to direct the employer to do, or refrain from doing, something and on-the-spot fines known as fixed-payment penalties. About 2% of Inspections result in prosecution.