Reforming the law on employment status (or not)

The employment status of religious workers of all faiths has been a recurring problem in the courts: see, for example, Percy v Church of Scotland Board of National Mission [2005] UKHL 73 and Methodist Conference v Preston [2013] UKSC 29.

The issue of status in employment was looked at by the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which reported in July 2017 (but which, incidentally, did not consider the employment status of office-holders).  In response to the Taylor Review, the previous Government published the Good Work Plan and, subsequently, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, HMRC and HM Treasury carried out a joint consultation on employment status.

On 26 July, the Government published the response to that consultation.

In brief, a large number of respondents supported employment status reform but there was no overall consensus on how to do it. They agreed that there was no easy solution and that it would be complex to implement any reform. The majority of respondents from all categories also felt that the worker category remained helpful and should be retained, with some citing the flexibility it allows individuals and businesses in an evolving labour market.

In the accompanying press release, the Government recognises that the employment status framework for rights works for the majority, but that boundaries between the different statuses can be unclear for some individuals and employers:

“However, the benefits of creating a new framework for employment status are currently outweighed by the potential disruption associated with legislative reform. Although such reform could help bring clarity in the long term, it might create cost and uncertainty for businesses in the short term, at a time where they are focusing on recovering from the pandemic.”

Also on 26 July, the Government published new guidance on employment, aimed at three different audiences:

Comment

In Preston, the Supreme Court overturned the unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal. In her dissenting judgment, Lady Hale JSC concluded at [49] that “Everything about this arrangement looks contractual, as did everything about the relationship in the Percy case”. I would suggest that any branch of private law that is so uncertain that four judges in the Supreme Court take one view and three judges in the Court of Appeal plus a judge in the Supreme Court take the opposite one remains in serious need of clarification.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Reforming the law on employment status (or not)" in Law & Religion UK, 29 July 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/07/29/reforming-the-law-on-employment-status-or-not/

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