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October 14, 2014
BIS has begun a large scale review to try and help bring clarity to the common and tricky issue of whether an individual is a worker or an employee. Announced somewhat out of the blue by Vince Cable at the Lib Dem conference, the aim of the review is not only to see whether the government can simplify this complicated area of employment law but also to assess whether it’s possible (i.e. economically viable) to give greater rights to ‘workers’. If the economy is improving at the rate everyone says, why shouldn’t workers enjoy the full spread of employment rights (or so the argument goes)? While this review is likely to be of interest to most companies, it’s of course hugely relevant to media businesses given the large number of atypical working relationships and prevalence of freelance ‘workers’ utilised in the sector. I don’t think anyone (apart from perhaps employment lawyers!) would disagree that some clarity in this area would be helpful. It’s hard though to see how this could be achieved without giving employers the power to unilaterally define someone’s status (which is of course what the law is designed to prevent). I’m therefore very intrigued to see what BIS comes up with. We’ll be following this very closely and will keep you updated on developments. Further details of the recent announcement are available here.