Employers need to take heed of latest EU employment rules change, says iLaw

One of London’s most innovative law firms, iLaw, has said new rules on EU workers’ rights should be considered when recruiting or contracting employees on casual or zero-hour contracts.

This week the European Parliament approved new rules that will seek to provide greater clarity on the rights of people working in the so-called ‘gig economy’ and on zero-hour contracts.

Under the new legislation, which will have to be implemented by member states within the next three years, employers will have to be more transparent about the job roles on offer and provide greater protection against cancelled work in a bid to end abusive employee/employer relationships.

Aimed at the “most vulnerable employees on atypical contracts and in non-standard jobs” it is intended to try and clear up grey areas around employment and worker status.

In recent years, several gig economy contractors have challenged their status through the courts to try and be recognised as a worker, rather than a self-employed contractor so as to enjoy additional rights to sick pay and other benefits.

This situation has left employers operating in the gig economy unsure of where they stand and while some, such as Hermes, have sought to introduce a system called ‘self-employed plus’, others have continued to challenge the courts.

Julian Cox, Head of Employment at iLaw, said: “The UK Government has already taken some steps to legislate in this area following Matthew Taylor’s report, which resulted in the Good Work Plan that is currently being implemented.

“However, elements of the EU’s new directive go beyond this and at present, the UK may be bound by these rules despite the ever-looming spectre of Brexit.”

Julian said that the low threshold for employment, which means that the new rules apply to all those who work at least three hours a week (averaged over four weeks), mean that many businesses may be caught out by EU’s legislation, which requires employers to inform employees about their duties, pay, the hours they are likely to work and their right to compensation for cancelled work on the first day of employment.

“The EUs approach seems slightly heavy handed and will certainly leave many employers in EU member states unsure of where they stand,” explained Julian.

“I am sure many businesses will welcome these changes to worker’s rights and that they will comply, but one has to wonder how it will affect future models of flexible employment, which are proving to be more popular with modern workforces.”

EU officials have confirmed that these new rules will not relate to people who are genuinely self-employed and it is not yet clear whether the UK will be bound by the rules after Brexit, but Julian believes businesses should prepare themselves nonetheless.