Employment enforcement tsar calls on government to address workers’ wrongly labelled status

The UK’s interim director of labour market enforcement has called on government to address the thorny issue of employment status in its forthcoming Employment Bill.

In his inaugural speech in the role, delivered at the offices of think tank The Resolution Foundation, Matthew Taylor told an audience the misclassification of self employed status is currently one of the most widespread and deliberate ways of denying people their rights.

“Furthermore, as long as workers are wrongly categorised, the bodies are unable to enforce their rights, and individuals have to rely on the risky slow and impractical route of employment tribunal.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge of getting status rules right. Indeed, from what I can see it is an issue in just about every national labour market.

“Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the impact of the new IR35 arrangements, I continue to believe that it is a priority to strengthen, simplify and align the rules on employment status.”

Turning to his priorities in his role, Taylor revealed he will launch a major piece of research this year to address the gaps in his office’s knowledge, which would also provide a strong baseline from which to assess the impact of the proposed single labour market enforcement body, the development of which would also be a major priority.

“This new body is a major opportunity for the UK to be – and be seen to be – at the forefront of effective compliance and enforcement,” Taylor said. “And it is vital in my view to gain the insight and build the enthusiasm of businesses, trade unions, campaign groups, academics and research bodies and other regulatory agencies.”

Taylor added he wanted to explore the role that industry bodies can play in either establishing or auditing voluntary schemes aimed at enforcing good practice.

“No kind of assurance scheme guarantees compliance, but it can substantially reduce risk and give labour consumers useful guidance.

“I know, for example, that since 2012 public procurement of security services by the Scottish government has been restricted to members of the security industry’s voluntary approved contractor scheme.”

Looking ahead, Taylor revealed he will particularly be looking at the construction, agriculture, social care and car wash sectors, with a mandatory national licensing scheme for hand car washes established to eradicate labour abuse in the sector.

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