One issue that the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to highlight is the rather uncertain state of employment law in Great Britain and what employers may reasonably expect of their employees: see, for example, this article by Carl De Cicco and Alison Heaton on Employment Law Watch and the CIPD’s COVID-19 case-notes. And as readers will know, the current law – principally set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended – makes a series of distinctions between “employees”, “workers” and “office-holders”, each of which has a different set of employment rights.
I suspect that when I first joined the House of Commons service in 1970 I was probably an office-holder – though, for all I know, I may have been a worker. I certainly did not have a contract of employment, and to the best of my knowledge I still did not have one when I left the Clerk’s Department in 2006 – or, at any rate, I was never shown one or asked to sign one. In reality, clerking in the Commons in those days was assumed to be a long-term career and dismissals or requests to resign were (almost) unheard of – but I always assumed that, at least in principle, if I made a complete mess of things the Clerk of the House could sack me at the drop of a wig and just accepted that as a fact of life.
In July 2017, a review of modern working practices was commissioned by the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, and chaired by Matthew Taylor, Continue reading