22 June 2017
The Law Society has backed the independent enforcement of workers’ rights as a means to preventing exploitation, echoing similar recommendations put forth by the Institute of Employment Rights.
In the organisation’s response to the government’s review into modern working practices, chaired by Matthew Taylor, it argued the current system makes it difficult to hold bad employers to account.
“When there is a dispute, our law relies on individuals taking their employer to court to get their rights recognised – a task that is simply beyond most people,” Law Society President Robert Bourns explained.
“Bad employers know this, and take advantage of it to cut corners and underpay people, knowing they’ll probably get away with it,” he said.
An additional barrier to access to justice for many workers is the employment tribunal fee system introduced by the Coalition government in 2013, which means that workers now have to pay up to £1,200 just to have their case heard. A recent study by Oxford University researchers found that these charges make going to court economically unviable for around half of people with cases likely to win.
The Law Society joined the Institute of Employment Rights in urging the government to drop these fees entirely and with immediate effect.
“Our rights at work are not optional – they are the minimum standard to which we are entitled,” Robert Bourns stated.
“An independent government inspector who can go into a business to ensure staff are being given their proper workplace rights will help put a stop to this exploitation, and put everyone on a fair and even playing field,” he said.
The Institute of Employment Rights goes further than the Law Society in that, alongside an independent Labour Inspectorate and the scrapping of Employment Tribunal fees, we propose that the regulation of workers’ rights shifts from its current focus on statutory minimums to standards that are collectively agreed by unions and employers at sectoral and enterprise levels.