The news yesterday that the
Independent Workers’ Union was filing a case on behalf of 75 outsourced workers
who are seeking more rights at work was an interesting development, but probably
not that surprising, despite reports describing it as a ‘landmark case’ for the
rights of such workers.
In a time of some resurgence
within the Labour party, and a Labour party that is more in tune with its union
membership than that of the recent past, we have seen an upturn in union action
and muscle flexing across a number of areas. So in the first instance,
union action at the moment is not altogether surprising.
then there is the backdrop. There have been a number of high profile
worker status cases this year, the Uber ones arguably the highest profile of
the lot. Then there’s been the Matthew Taylor report from the summer
which probably hasn’t got the press we might have expected because everyone’s
been talking about the inertia of the Brexit negotiations. But that
analysis has propagated the newly published report a “Framework for Modern
employment” (more here) from the Government; and we might reasonably
expect the imminent Budget to contain more news on PAYE and NICs avoidance.
in all - though shrewdly timed to apply pressure in the weeks immediately after
the Budget when the details of the Budget announcements are ironed out and the
union might hope to make some headway in pressing for change - this case is,
far from landmark, about as a surprising as Christmas turning up once a year.
it succeed? Well, that’s an interesting question. We have to hand
at the moment of course almost none of the facts of the case beyond the broad
job titles and the end client in question – none of which give us any
indication of the levels of “supervision, direction and control” – the three
buzzwords of the moment in this area.
I were a betting woman (which I’m not!), I’d have to say “no”. While the
courts gently nudge statutory law in certain directions, a wholesale change in
the English legal principle of having one employer to allowing the existence of
joint employer status would be more than a gentle nudge.
it succeed in a different way? Might they lose the battle but win the
war? Well then yes, I think they might. Not necessarily on the
joint employer claim – that would be quite a messy thing to establish in
statute and I think other outcomes are more likely. But as part of the
dripping water of change, might this be part of the movement that continues the
changing face of employment status? Then yes. Yes, I think it