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Zero-hours contracts are the logical conclusion of the Government’s policy of making the ‘labour market more flexible’ – a somewhat unnecessary policy, given that the United Kingdom already has the lowest levels of employment protection in Europe. The ever increasing number of workers estimated to be on zero-hours contracts has been decried as a move back to Victorian levels of exploitation, but what is the legal status of those working on zero-hours contracts and how should policy makers deal with the issue – if at all? More

The Telegraph has published an article reporting that, as a result of the Government’s triennial review of the Low Pay Commission (LPC), the national minimum wage (NMW) ‘could be frozen or cut if it starts to cost jobs or damage economy’.  Unite the Union quickly issued a press release stating that this ‘assault on minimum wage will be resisted’, but has Government policy really changed at all?  More

In a long awaited speech David Cameron has set out his vision for the European Union. If the Conservative party are elected they will seek to reform the EU considering, among other things, whether ‘the balance is right’ in areas such as ‘social affairs’, which includes employment legislation. Once the Government has attempted reform of the EU Britain will be offered an ‘in or out’ referendum. How would that impact employment law in the UK? More

The Government has responded to its short consultation on employee ownership which would allow employees to give up some employment rights such as unfair dismissal in return for shares. Unusually, BIS did not issue a press release – perhaps hoping the shocking details will be lost as the media obsesses over George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. Despite 92% of consultation respondents viewing the plans in a negative or mixed way, the Government intends to implement the policy, with some minor changes such as renaming the status ‘employee shareholder’. The Government response makes for depressing reading, confirming, among other things, that unemployed people may lose their benefits if they reject an offer of work on an employee shareholder basis. More

Few marketing executives would clamour for an endorsement from Adrian Beecroft given the press’s negative reaction to his plans to make it easier to fire workers. However, this is exactly what George Osborne’s new plan to create ‘owner employees’ has received. Adrian Beecroft reportedly called the plans ‘a real shot in the arm for Britain’s entrepreneurs’. But how does the new concept of an ‘owner-employee’ compare with Beecroft’s proposed ‘compensated no-fault dismissal’? More

The Telegraph recently published an article entitled ‘Teachers “face sack” for refusing to endorse gay marriage’. This hyperbolic report uses Aidan O’Neill QC’s advice to the Coalition for Marriage  to argue against marriage equality in the UK.  But how well do The Telegraph’s employment-related claims stand up to examination? More

When watching British sporting successes over the last few weeks you may, or may not, have noticed that Sunday trading laws have been relaxed during the Olympic and Paralympic games. Suggestions by ministers that the changes should become permanent have provoked a surprising amount of controversy given that this is already the case in Scotland. But are restrictions on opening hours based on a religious concept of ‘a day of rest’ simply irrelevant in the 21st century? More

It would be difficult to argue that the Coalition has ideally managed employment law reform. Although leaks to the press pre-empting official announcements occurred under previous administrations, the current Government also seems to be undermining the role of public consultations. For example, the Government has yet to publish its response to the ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’ consultation, but it has already announced that it intends to increase the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims to two years and to charge claimants tribunal fees. I am considering starting an e-petition calling for improved Government consultation in the hope of sparking a parliamentary debate.  But, while the Government’s approach is undesirable, I doubt I could secure the 100,000 signatures necessary to trigger a debate. However, could the Government’s consultation methods potentially leave its decisions open to judicial review? More

We’ve all heard the complaint that vexatious claims are clogging the tribunal system and discouraging employers from hiring staff. To combat this, and to encourage recruitment, the Chancellor has announced that the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims will rise from one year to two years and that fees will be required to lodge tribunal claims. Putting aside concerns about the potentially discriminatory impact of these moves, will they address the reasons behind the doubling in the number of tribunal claims since 1999/2000? More

A recent survey of employers’ attitudes to the abolition of the statutory retirement procedure suggests that the majority of employers are doing without a default retirement age. The survey of senior HR professionals in the UK, undertaken by the law firm Norton Rose, reveals, among other things, that only three per cent of employers intend to retain a default retirement age. Unfortunately for young people already facing high unemployment levelsunpaid  internships, and calls to lower the minimum wage if they are lucky enough to find a job,  22 per cent of employers believe they now have less capacity to take on younger employees. More

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