The Employment Rights Act

Posted on 20 April 2017. Source: The Law Society Gazette

The Employment Rights Act

What do you recall from 1996? Perhaps it’s the Spice Girls tearing up the charts, or the heady optimism surrounding the England football team at Euros. Either way, it was a very different place to the world we live in today.

The biggest development of the past two decades is the rise of the internet. In 1996, just 4.1% of the UK population had access to the World Wide Web. Now, it’s 92%. Modern technology allows businesses to structure themselves in ways unimaginable 21 years ago, in the so-called 'gig-economy’.

Another event of 1996 – which may not have captured the public imagination in quite the same way as Gazza or Posh Spice did - was the introduction of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA96). This, however, is the battleground for a debate that goes to the heart of how we structure our society today.

While businesses have moved with the times, a spate of recent cases have shown that the law lags behind. In Pimlico Plumbers and Mullins v Smith [2017] EWCA Civ 51, which followed the Uber and CitySprint cases, the Court of Appeal expressed the difficulty it had in applying 20th century legislation to 21st century working practices.

‘Giggers’ and the law

Depending on which side of the fence you sit, the 'gig-economy' provides businesses and 'giggers' with ultimate flexibility, or it provides employers with a convenient way of circumventing employment law protections - until now.

The ERA96 recognises three categories of employment status. At one end of the spectrum are ‘employees’ – those who work under employment contracts and who are subject to a substantial degree of control. Employees are entitled to all employment law protections and benefits.

At the other end of the spectrum are the truly self-employed. Such individuals operate a business on their account and, broadly speaking, are not protected by any employment laws.

Read the full article here.