Another case in the “Gig Economy” – Amazon delivery drivers fight for employment status
Amazon delivery drivers are to fight for better employment rights, including sick pay, holiday pay and the national minimum wage. The GMB union has announced that it is taking legal action on behalf of members working for three delivery firms used by Amazon, arguing that the companies wrongly classed them as self-employed and that they ought to be regarded as employees of Amazon.
A statement from the union, which represents professional drivers, said: “The drivers were required to attend scheduled shifts that were controlled by Amazon, meaning they did not have the flexibility that is integral to being self-employed. In this situation, the couriers were treated like employees in terms of their working hours and the GMB union contends they should be treated as employees in terms of their rights too.”
The case is the latest in a string of gig economy legal disputes challenging what unions say is bogus self-employment among couriers and other drivers. The GMB won a landmark judgment against Uber in 2016 and others, including Deliveroo, Addison Lee and CityLink, are all involved in ongoing legal action.
GMB stated that guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions are not privileges – they are the legal right of all UK workers and that on this basis, these delivery drivers should also receive them.
Is Brexit making your staff resistant to change at work?
According to new research, along with the perceived damage to UK trade and border security, Brexit could be having an impact on employee attitudes.
The survey has examined opinions of between 1,300 and 1,500 UK employees every year since 2015 to track their attitudes and perspectives on work. This year’s findings reveal that just three quarters of respondents feel very or quite optimistic about their future in the workplace, a drop of 6% since 2015.
The fall in optimism is even more pronounced amongst employees in Generation Z, who have seen an 8% decline in positivity since 2015 (from 91% to 83%), perhaps driven by their opposition to Brexit.
Adding to these concerns, respondents are also feeling less confident about their skills than they were in 2015, perhaps due to rise in new technologies entering the workplace. Just 80% now believe they have the skills and training to succeed in their role, down 8% on three years ago.
This lack of confidence could be one of the reasons why stress levels have also risen in the workplace, with one in five employees now saying they experience stress every day. The constant political emphasis has forced businesses to be flexible and change management has become the new normal for employers, yet employees are finding it difficult to remain focused and unaffected by these seismic changes.
Online complaints’ service has increased claims from underpaid workers
An online complaints service has helped to double the number of underpaid workers recouping money from their employers, according to new statistics. In 2017-18, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) identified £15.6 million in wages owed to 200,000 low-paid workers. Workers can either contact ACAS or complete an HMRC online form which the government says has contributed to the increase in complaints.
Many businesses have misunderstood the national minimum wage rules and the average amount refunded last year was £78. On top of the refunds, employers also face fines of up to 200% of the arrears and public ‘naming and shaming’.
The points below may help reduce the risk of minimum wage breaches:
- Pay workers no less than the legal minimum for their age and update this amount when the rate rises each April.
- Ensure hourly earnings are averaged over their pay period so that they add up to at least the minimum wage.
- Reimburse for any uniform if their average earnings in that pay period would end up below the legal threshold. Unbranded items such as black trousers, skirts or shoes and discounted clothing from a retailer’s own range count as uniform.
- Pay for all of the time workers are expected to be in work, even if they are not physically working: training time, security checks at the end of the day, travelling between assignments all count as working time.
- Exclude any income from tips when working out the legal minimum.
All male shortlists banned in an attempt to improve pay gap at PWC
Accountancy giant PwC has confirmed that it will prevent all-male shortlists for jobs in Scotland, as a bid to increase the number of women in senior roles. It said that there is nothing to prevent its new policy being implemented in Scotland and is part of the firm’s wider action plan to promote diversity and inclusion.
The move was prompted by a recent pay gap report showing that men employed in PWC earned on average 43% cent more than women. The company said recruitment was one of the areas it was looking at as a way to narrow the gap.
It also plans to ban all-male interview panels and to examine how “career defining roles” are awarded and selected. The employer has also introduced a returnship programme, which encourages those who have taken a break from work, such as maternity leave, to do six months paid work experience.
Human capital provider Capita faces legal action over demands for training fees from ex-employees
Capita has a policy of insisting that graduates carry out three or four months training, for which they are not paid, before they are put forward for consultancy work with clients. Trainees must then agree to work for the company for two years or be liable to repay up to £20,000 in training fees.
However, this is now set to be challenged by a legal team who are seeking to raise the £50,000 legal fees via a crowdfunding campaign. The challenge states that charging such high fees acted as an “unlawful restraint of trade” as they did not legitimately reflect the cost of the training the employer had provided workers.
The company wrote an obligation into contracts to repay fees right up until the last day of a two-year commitment which the employees say does not represent a balance between the interests of young graduates and the business interests of the employer. This case may result in businesses having to evaluate the practice of recovering training fees and we will watch with interest.
Consider reasonable adjustments before dismissing
A Dundee bus driver who was sacked after losing her licence following a blackout was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled. The driver with Xplore Dundee had been employed for five years when she was dismissed after she disclosed that she had suffered a blackout at home.
An employment tribunal ruled that she had been unfairly dismissed and ordered the company to reinstate her.
The tribunal heard that the employee had been asked to attend a welfare meeting with her employer but that, when they sought medical reports, they were unable to identify a cause for the blackout incident. Drivers are required to tell the DVLA of such events and the employer liaised with the agency during this time.
The employer then told the employee that she would not be permitted to drive until they received a letter from the GP stating that she was fit to be behind the wheel. The GP confirmed that she was fit to work, but unable to drive public transport. DVLA revoked her licence, stating that she could resume driving if she remained fit for a period of twelve months without a seizure.
However, the employer decided the claimant was “unable to fulfil the requirements” of the role due to the DVLA suspension and she was dismissed. The Tribunal found that she had been unfairly dismissed and that she should be reinstated.
Clearly in this case, there were steps that ought to have been taken by the employer to secure alternatives and to determine if the employee remained fit. The passage of time between the investigation and suspension and eventual dismissal meant that she was dismissed only a very short time before the driving ban was lifted. At the very least, the employer should have considered what reasonable adjustments could be made to support her on-going employment.
Small and medium sized businesses need training and support to survive
Effective people management training for small businesses is essential in solving the UK’s ongoing productivity problem, experts have told MPs.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for more than half the UK’s turnover and employment, but evidence sent to the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee as part of its inquiry into small businesses and productivity suggested there were a number of barriers preventing them from achieving better productivity.
Many owner-managers have very limited experience around managing people and find it difficult to talk about business challenges. The inquiry found that it is important to recognise that not all SMEs are the same and they require training and support targeted to their specific needs. Evidence focused on family-owned firms, as they account for two in three small businesses in the UK, but only 30% survive beyond the first generation.
There is a need to develop support mechanisms that improve the high-level management skills of family-owned SMEs, and enhance their understanding of governance options through better training. The evidence highlighted a range of issues that hinder small businesses and damage their productivity, but two main themes emerge – the impact of late payments by major companies and the lack of effective management training.
Golden “hello” raises questions in Parliament
STV’s chief executive has been asked to explain how he can justify the proposed redundancy of more than 50 staff whilst receiving a remuneration package of more than £1 million.
STV announced plans to close its loss-making STV2 channel and restructure its news operation, putting a total of 59 jobs at risk, in a bid to save £1 million a year but their Chief Executive received a £187,000 “welcome payment” when he joined in January, along with worth £666,000 in addition to his basic salary of £400,000.
He is now been asked to appear before Holyrood’s Culture Committee and explain himself. The committee convener said: “The proposals recently announced by STV would mean major changes to the structure of a national broadcaster, particularly affecting how news is delivered across Scotland. The entire committee was concerned about what these proposals will mean in practice and we will use the Chief Executive’s evidence to find out more about the proposed job losses as well as the sale of local TV licences.
Staff at STV are currently balloting on taking industrial action.
Only give “fair and accurate” references for ex-employees
A recent case has highlighted that businesses must be careful when providing references for ex-employees. If employers do not ensure a reference is fair, true and accurate they could be subject to a claim of negative misstatement by a former employee.
An employee was dismissed, following an investigation and disciplinary procedings and learned that a negative reference had been returned by his ex-employer. He asked to see a copy of the reference and then raised a claim for negligent misstatement arguing that parts of the reference were inaccurate and untrue, stating that it created a misleading idea of the disciplinary situation.
Whilst the court did not find in favour of the employee, it set out the following guidance:
- Conduct an objective and rigorous appraisal of facts and opinion, especially negative opinion, before providing a reference
- Take reasonable care to be satisfied that the facts set out in the reference are accurate and true and that, where an opinion is expressed, there is a proper and legitimate basis for the opinion;
- Take reasonable care to ensure that the reference is fair and is not misleading either by reason of what is not included or by “implication, nuance or innuendo”.
Do you unwittingly target a particular gender in your job adverts?
According to research, gender-neutral job advertisements receive up to 42% more applications than their more biased counterparts. So how can you write jobs adverts that aren’t accidentally skewed towards male or female applicants?
In an analysis of nearly 77,000 job adverts there was an average of 6 stereotypical male or female words per advert. Supposedly ‘male’ words include active, ambitious, analytical, assertive and autonomous. Supposedly ‘female’ words include cheerful, committed, compassionate and co-operative. This isn’t to suggest that women are not ambitious or that men are not cheerful but research claims certain words carry social and historical connotations and, if used may be appealing more to one gender than another.
“We’re looking for strong.” Instead, use: “We’re looking for exceptional”.
“Who thrive in a competitive atmosphere.” Instead, use: “Who are motivated by challenging goals”.
“We are a community of concerned”. Instead, use: “We are a team focused on”.
“Have a polite and pleasant style”. Instead, use: “Are professional and courteous”.
“Nurture and connect with customers”. Instead, use: “Provide great customer service”.