I was pleased to be asked to speak at the North West meeting of ACAS for trade union full time officers on 17 March 2017. The subject of the address was the ever popular gig economy, in reality a modern analysis of employment status in a changing world of work. It was interesting then to see that over the weekend and in the newspapers on 20 March 2017, there is a continuation of the debate concerning employment status. A review is currently under way being led for Government by Matthew Taylor, and Mr Taylor actually appeared on Sunday TV to explain his initial views and the importance of this issue for many workers. It should also not be lost on readers that this is also an important issue for Government in terms of tax/NI receipts.
“Everything is fine whilst we are all mates”
When undertaking training I always stress the need for certainty when reaching agreement for individuals or collective agreements. “Everything is fine whilst we are all mates” is one of my favourite sayings and many disputes result from poor drafting and a lack of certainty in contracts.
I was drawn to coverage of a news story about employment law from the US. A group of workers succeeded before a court in recovering enhanced overtime rates when they proved that a contract drafted by the employer to exclude certain work for overtime rates was ambiguous. The problem for the employer arose because a comma was missing from the text when listing excluded work types.
The US Judge adopted a strict grammatical approach to interpretation of the contract, resolving the ambiguity against the employer who was responsible for drafting the document. Words in agreements usually mean what they say, but the case in question proves that the structure of a sentence is also important. Careful drafting of documents remains crucial, but also perhaps it is time to add the First Aid In English book to your essential reading list.