17 October 2016

Guernsey unlikely to follow UK review of workers’ rights

Guernsey is unlikely to follow moves by the UK to review its employment law regime, according to Carey Olsen partner Mark Dunster.

There is a growing trend towards flexible or self-employment and earlier this month UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review of employment practices amid growing concerns about whether existing protection for workers is adequate.

The UK review will focus on workers who don’t fit the classic model of an employee working full-time for an employer. Specifically, the review will consider the growing number of people who are self-employed, who carry out temporary work or who work under “zero-hours” contracts. This kind of non-standard employment is growing in the UK, mainly due to the flexibility that it gives employers to deal with variations in work levels and which is important when businesses are going through tough financial times.

But Advocate Dunster said that the employment position in Guernsey was different, where adequate employee protection was already in place and there were no plans to review that.

People who work under non-standard arrangements are often called 'atypical' workers and a recent Carey Olsen seminar for employers and those working in the human resources sector highlighted the issues that need to be considered for these workers.

Advocate Dunster explained that Guernsey offers a good balance of protection for employers and employees, combining effective measures to prevent rogue employers taking advantage of their workforce but at the same time allowing employers the ability to structure their workforce effectively.

“Guernsey is fortunate that it does not have the same working practices that have caused widespread concern in the UK, particularly in the UK's retail and transport sectors. As a result, Guernsey does not have the same need to regulate employers in this area," he said.

Senior associate Rachel Richardson said: “Guernsey is more employer-friendly than the UK, largely because it has picked out what it considers are the key protections for employees in order to ensure an appropriate level of protection but without adopting the significant level of regulation that is widely regarded as strangling UK businesses.”

Alluding to the fact that Guernsey has used atypical workers in various sectors, Advocate Dunster said: “There is still a strong element of seasonal work in Guernsey in the hospitality sector and to a lesser extent in the horticultural and fishing industries. Employers on the island make use of atypical contracts to manage that demand". 

Atypical contracts are also used in the finance sector to allow employers to cover spikes in activity. Ms Richardson confirmed that there are an increasing number of people working in the sector on non-standard arrangements such as self-employed consultants, temporary workers or people who work on secondments.

Ms Richardson noted that employers dealing with atypical workers needed to bear in mind their obligations under various employment laws, including the requirement to provide details of certain key employment terms, pay workers above the minimum wage, keep valid right to work and immigration documentation and comply with tax and social insurance requirements.