We Asked Some Experts About The Future Of Workers' Rights

We Asked Some Experts About the Future of Workers’ Rights in the UK

For most of us, working is a fact of life. However, just like every other part of our lives, it comes with a specific set of protections and rights to which we’re all entitled.

From things like maximum working hours and the national minimum wage, to health and safety, mass surveillance or pensions, there are a huge number of issues which touch on our rights at work.

However, employment has changed a lot during the past few years. In the last 12 months alone we’ve started to see the true extent of the gender pay gap, as companies with more than 250 employees are forced to reveal data. We’ve seen the ongoing saga surrounding the gig economy, strikes from outsourced workers and thousands of calls to the new modern slavery hotline.

So, what is the future of work for 2018 and beyond? It’s a big question, so we spoke to some people most likely to give us some big answers…

‘Workplace Surveillance Doesn’t Just Affect Our Life in Work’

CCTV camerasImage Credit: Chuttersnap / Unsplash

“Workplace surveillance doesn’t just affect our life in work, it affects our rights in all kinds of ways. We have a right to a private life, we have a right to freedom of expression. When workplaces monitor our internet activity, they are, in fact, monitoring every other aspect of our life and that has huge implications.

“Employers quite often want to use surveillance so they can stop whistleblowers. Surveillance provides what looks like evidence, though it may actually be shown in a way that doesn’t represent the whole situation. One of the main effects of surveillance is to bring about fear – for example, people might be afraid of joining a union.

When workplaces monitor our internet activity, they are, in fact, monitoring every other aspect of our life and that has huge implications.

“Protections that we get from Europe [for example in the EU Charter] are likely to be diminished as a result of our leaving the European Union. This likely means fewer protections, both for workers and for privacy in general. This means that we need to be very wary, it’s really important that people understand that at times of political chaos, we need to assert our rights and put in as much as we can to protect them”

Dr Paul Bernal is a lecturer in information technology and intellectual property at UEA. He is also on Twitter

‘The Gig Economy Has Changed Workers’ Rights Forever’

A Deliveroo rider walks through town

Image Credit: Eugenuity / Flickr

“The fallout from Brexit aside, I think the biggest issues that workers will face in the future are the challenges presented by the ever-expanding gig economy. When we talk about workers’ rights we often think about them in the context of what we consider to be the traditional employment model, namely working a 9-5 job for one employer.  The gig economy has changed this forever.

The gig economy is not going to go away and the law needs to catch up quickly.

“Many workplace rights that have been hard fought for are to some degree obsolete because they simply don’t fit with the way we now work.  Holidays, limits on working time, maternity benefits etc are not easily reconciled with the ‘self-employed’ model of the gig economy.  The gig economy is not going to go away and the law needs to catch up quickly.  Whilst the Government acknowledges this, it faces a delicate balancing act.  Too little regulation and the gig economy becomes a free-for-all with little protection for individuals.  Too much regulation and the concept of gig working becomes pointless.

“Notwithstanding the issue of exploitation, I think serious thought needs to be given to the pension provisions of gig workers.  It has been identified that those working in the gig economy are not putting nearly enough aside for a pension, thereby creating the prospect of a substantial pensions black hole that is only going to get bigger unless special provision is put in place.”

Paul Kelly is a partner and Head of the Employment Team at Blacks Solicitors LLP. He is also on Twitter.

‘The Amount of Paternity Leave Needs to Increase’

A family with their child
Image Credit: Nathan Anderson / Unsplash

“With regards to the laws surrounding pregnancy and maternity, I do not think that these will change anytime soon, albeit there are lots of people trying to campaign for change. However, I would like to see the Government doing something to address the fact that currently the self-employed do not have the same rights as employees when it comes to maternity, paternity and shared parental leave and pay.

This could be a huge factor in helping to decrease the Gender Pay Gap.

“Personally, I think the amount of paternity leave and pay that fathers are entitled to needs to increase. This would hopefully persuade fathers to play more of an active role in the early weeks and months of their child’s life. It may also lead to more men being willing to submit flexible working requests, so that childcare responsibilities are not left solely to women.

“This would not only benefit the families as a whole and the fathers themselves, but also enable women to get back into work quicker and more easily. In time, this could be a huge factor in helping to decrease the Gender Pay Gap.”

Danielle Ayres is an employment lawyer specialising in maternity and pregnancy discrimination at Gorvins Solicitors. She is also on Twitter.

Featured Image: Alekzan Powell / Unsplash

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About the Author

Jem Collins

Writer
Jem is the Strategic Impact Director for RightsInfo, working on increasing our reach across the UK and measuring our impact. Previously she was the News and Social Media Editor. She is also passionate about helping young people into the media and runs Journo Resources, a start-up which helps young people into the media, as well as serving as a trustee of the Student Publication Association. She is also one of the co-founders of The Second Source, a group to help end harassment in the media. Email Jem View all posts by Jem Collins.
We Asked Some Experts About the Future of Workers’ Rights in the UK
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