Tag Archives: Katie Bales

Bad Work: the Government’s Response to the Taylor Review

By Dr Katie Bales, Prof Alan Bogg, Prof Michael Ford QC, Prof Tonia Novitz and Ms Roseanne Russell, Centre for Law at Work (University of Bristol Law School).

© Alexander Baxevanis

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.

In July 2017, ‘Good Work’, Matthew Taylor’s Review of ‘Modern Working Practices’ was published. The Report aimed to promote ‘good work’ through the adoption of 53 recommendations. In February 2018, the Government published its response, also entitled Good Work, mostly accepting the Review recommendations, but ducking their implementation by offering further ‘consultation’. Accompanying the thinly reasoned Response were four hastily drawn up consultation papers, on employment status, transparency in the labour market, agency workers and enforcement of employment rights.

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. Continue reading

Sanctuary Scholarships as a commitment and first step towards truly inclusive access to higher education

By Dr Katie Bales, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

Sanctuary Scholarship rep and undergraduate student Stella Ogunlade presenting at a conference on the importance of sanctuary scholarships.

On 8 June 2016, the University of Bristol announced the launch of the ‘Sanctuary Scholarship scheme’ which provides access to higher education for forced migrants facing major barriers in accessing education. In doing so, Bristol joined a cohort of like-minded Universities seeking to provide space and sanctuary for those forced to flee their countries of origin. At present, for example, there are approximately 40 Universities in the UK offering scholarships to forced migrants.

This seemingly noble position is a necessary one as there are many obstacles facing forced migrants wishing to pursue University education – the most significant of which is that student loans are not available to: asylum seekers claiming refugee status; refused asylum seekers; or those with discretionary leave to remain in the UK. As the majority of these persons are also prohibited from working, University fees remove any possibility of their accessing higher education. Continue reading

‘Paid work’ or underpaid labour? The labour exploitation of detainees within immigration detention

By Dr Katie Bales, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School) and Dr Lucy Mayblin, Assistant Professor in Sociology (Department of Sociology, Warwick University).*

© Chloe Juyon

In June 2017, ten immigration detainees launched a judicial review action against the Home Office challenging the payment of ‘slave’ like wages for labour undertaken within immigration detention.

This practice, termed ‘paid work’ by the Government, is remunerated at a rate of £1.00 or £1.25 per hour and includes work as cleaners, cooks, hairdressers, gym orderlies and gardeners – roles that are essential to the running of the immigration removal centres. In 2014 this practice resulted in 44,832 hours’ worth of work.

In this blog, we argue that this work is exploitative and ‘unfree’. In recognition that many detainees wish to work however, we do not call for an end to this practice; rather we highlight the structural conditions that render detainees more likely to accept exploitative conditions of work (including but not restricted to low pay), and argue that, at the very least, detainees should be provided with the national minimum wage. Continue reading

Immigration enforcement in the Byron aftermath: The legal limits of what can be required from employers

By Dr Katie Bales, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

36b0c79400000578-3714197-image-a-24_1469780776407In July 2016 the Byron hamburger chain colluded with Home Office officials in setting up immigration raids on their workforce which resulted in the arrest and detention of 35 of their workers. Following mass protests over their actions, Byron released a statement declaring that the firm ‘was unaware that any of our workers were in possession of counterfeit documentation’. Despite the fact that ‘vigorous right to work checks were carried out’, Byron claimed that ‘sophisticated counterfeit documentation was used’ by the workers meaning Byron had no idea that those individuals were without the right to work. Byron also claimed that they were under a ‘legal obligation’ to cooperate with the Home Office, suggesting that cooperation with Immigration enforcement was mandatory as opposed to voluntary.

A recent report from Corporate Watch indicates that this type of collusion is not uncommon as immigration enforcement officials often use financial sanctions as a threat to coerce employers into helping with their investigative and arrest operations. The financial sanction referred to exists in the form of a ‘civil penalty’ which stands at £20,000 per worker that is found to be working ‘illegally’ without the right to work. Discounts are made however where employers cooperate with the Home Office. A £5,000 discount will be made for example, where employers report workers and a further £5,000 for active cooperation, a full list of these discounts can be found in the Home Office code of practice on the civil penalty scheme for workers.

The questions raised by the Byron press release and the further report from Corporate Watch concern the extent of the legal obligations placed upon employers in terms of immigration enforcement. Are employers legally obliged to set up ‘arrest by appointment’ meetings for staff for example? And do any of the legal obligations owed to employees or workers conflict with those related to immigration enforcement? Continue reading