Human rights aren’t just essential to our private lives, they also offer crucial protections for us at work. This International Workers’ Day we take a look at some of the past year’s biggest stories about our rights at work.
Companies Must Now Publish Gender Pay Gap Data
The gender pay gap – the difference between men and women’s average earnings – is narrowing and is at its lowest level ever. The bad news, however, is that it was still at 9.4 percent for full-time employees in 2016, meaning that a man earns 9.4% more on average than a woman for doing the same work. In a bid to reduce the gap further, the Government is forcing big companies to publish an annual report on their pay.
— Women and Equalities (@WomenEqualities) April 6, 2017
As of April 6, any company with more than 250 employees has to collect data on the gender pay gap in their organisation and publish it on their website, as well as sending a copy to the Government. It is hoped that this kind of public record will help encourage companies to tackle the differences in pay.
Some have criticised the move, however, saying it doesn’t go far enough. The Women’s Equality Party, have called for the new rules to apply to companies with 50 or more workers, while some lawyers have asked for it to take into account the type of roles in which people work.
Uber Was Told it Must Pay Its Drivers the National Minimum Wage
Back in October last year, an Employment Tribunal ruled against car hire service Uber, in a case which could have huge implications for workers’ rights. The app had argued that its drivers were self-employed, saying it was just a technology company that linked drivers with passengers. They claimed that this meant employment rights didn’t apply to its 40,000 UK drivers.
The Tribunal disagreed. Uber were told they must pay the National Minimum Wage to their drivers, as well as make sure they have paid holiday. While it’s likely the company will appeal, the judgment could have a knock-on effect for other companies which operate in a similar way.
A Turbulent Year for Surveillance Laws
Government surveillance has created headlines over the past year, but workplace surveillance – how companies monitor your activities on the job – has also been a hotly debated issue. This year has seen some significant changes to both.
In December, the Government was granted increased data spying powers when the Investigatory Powers Act, dubbed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, was passed. In a nutshell, the Act means that the police and intelligence services can now conduct mass and indiscriminate collection of data. Meanwhile, internet service providers and phone companies must keep the records of people who’ve used their websites or services.
Intelligence agencies can also require companies to weaken the security of their products, so that they can access the data more easily. The Government says the Act will help combat terrorism, but others argue it’s an unjustified invasion of our privacy.
However, just weeks after the Investigatory Powers Act became law, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Act’s predecessor, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, was unlawful because it allowed for the general and indiscriminate retention of our data. This could well be problematic for the new Act, as it is largely similar in powers. Given the Brexit vote and the upcoming general election, it’s unclear if or when Parliament will seek to amend the legislation.
As digital technology has developed, there are more opportunities than ever for employers to snoop on their workers. But the law is clear: workers are entitled to be informed as to how far and for what reasons if they’re being monitored by their employers.
All it all, it’s been a busy year for workers’ rights, with changes to everything from your pay to who’s looking at your emails. 2017 will be just as busy, not least because leaving the EU is likely to mean giving up some safeguards on employee protections. So make sure you know your rights and stay informed.
Want to read more about workers’ rights? Here’s a few to get you started:
- Take a look at ten reasons why you should #BeBoldForChange about gender equality at work
- Read the full explainer on the Uber judgment
- Check out our explainer on workplace surveillance and human rights