In Various Claimants v Catholic Child Welfare Society(CCWS)  UKSC 56, Lord Phillips famously stated that “The law of vicarious liability is on the move.” This leading case also made it clear that two elements have to be shown before one person can be made vicariously liable for the torts committed by another:
a relationship between the two persons which makes it proper for the law to make the one pay for the fault of the other; and
a connection between that relationship and the tortfeasor’s wrongdoing.
Later cases such as Coxv Ministry of Justice  UKSC 10 and Armes v Nottinghamshire CC  UKSC 60 have shown that the relationship, while primarily that of employer and employee, can extend to relationships akin to employment, including the relationship between a priest and his bishop and a local authority and the foster parents to whom it entrusts children in care. The Supreme Court in Mohamud v Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc  UKSC 11 also broadened the “connection” test to impose vicarious liability for torts which were connected to the field of activities of the employee, and where there was a sufficient connection between the position in which the employee was employed and his wrongful conduct to make it right for the employer to be held liable. (more…)
The current COVID19 crisis has shone a light on the world of work by interrupting the supply and demand necessary for global capitalism to function. In the UK context, it has drawn attention to the inadequacies of our current employment rights framework; the ways in which certain types of work is insecure and de-valued; the racialised, gendered and classed boundaries of some ‘front-line’ jobs; the vast power disparities between employers and employees; and called into question the necessity of office work, or indeed a 5 day working week.
Perhaps then this period of reflection might open up new perspectives and ideas amongst the public which could radically transform the future world of work, pushing forwards positive change which forefronts worker protection, adequate remuneration, recognition, work-life balance and interests outside of traditional ‘work’ under industrial capitalism. Below, I outline some of the areas in which these changes should take place. (more…)
Don Lane was a DPD courier, whose written contract described him as an ‘independent contractor’, aiming to ensure that he was neither an ‘employee’ nor a ‘worker’ and therefore was not entitled to the legal rights such as protection against dismissal, the national living wage, paid holidays, or even statutory sick pay. He suffered from diabetes and, having already been fined £150 for attending a hospital appointment earlier in the year, died in January 2018 after working through the Christmas season despite illness. His employers knew that he had suffered from a diabetic collapse at work but adopted a system which strongly discouraged him taking any time off for sickness: no income for sick leave and, worst of all, fines. The media has documented other examples of the abusive treatment of ‘gig’ workers in courier companies such as Hermes and Amazon.
While the Government says it is contemplating ‘the single largest shift in employment status since the Employment Rights Act in 1996’, its focus is on clarifying rather than extending its ambit. The reason seems to lie in its endorsement of the ‘flexibility’ of the current UK labour market, following Taylor’s lead, enabling individuals and employers ‘to make the choices that are right for them’. The notion that such choices are structurally constrained is ignored; rather the blame is laid at the door of the exceptional ‘bad’ employer. While some improvements are contemplated, they do not broaden the scope of access to statutory rights at work in a way that would have helped Don Lane or will prevent other forms of abuse. (more…)