Latest News

  • FRU responds to the government consultation on employment status
    Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:16

    FRU has submitted a response to the government consultation on employment status that closed on June 1st. The consultation asked whether the options proposed in the Taylor Review of Modern Work Practices could achieve more certainty and clarity for businesses when determining employment status, particularly in relation to the realities of the modern labour market.

    FRU’s main points were as follows:

    The complexity of the legal position on employment status can assist employers who set out to deliberately miscategorise the status of their staff. But there are many other factors involved. In our experience the following factors are more important:

    •             Lack of scruple from employer. There are simply some rogue employers who have no interest in the legality of their actions.

    •             The worker’s knowledge of employment status. Many employees have no relevant knowledge or understanding of their status. In these circumstances, there is no need for the employer to rely on sophisticated obfuscation based on the sometimes nuanced legal position. They can put forward an obviously wrong assertion confident that it won’t be challenged.

    •             The power balance between worker and employer. Regardless of their knowledge, workers can only challenge their position if they have access to a genuine remedy or have the resources to push back against their employer. This is difficult for many vulnerable workers, particularly those in low paid, insecure jobs.

    FRU submitted therefore that codification of the test for employment status is not likely to produce any significantly greater certainty than the current case law approach. The difficulty in determining employment status is not that it is difficult to identify the main principles — these have been clear for some time. The difficulty is in applying the principles to actual employment situations. Where there is factual disagreement as to what was actually agreed this needs to be resolved. But, even more significantly, many employment relationships are genuinely complex or atypical, and different factors point in different directions.

    In FRU’s view many of the issues around employment status would be better addressed by ensuring that employees and workers have adequate access to advice and the opportunity to challenge suspect employment status decisions by their employer. We see many cases where employers insist that their staff are not employees or workers, even in straightforward cases where no sensible doubt exists.

    We argue that greater state enforcement, such as through HMRC enforcement of the National Minimum Wage, would produce pressure on employers to get status issues right.

    FRU Chief Executive David Abbott commented that “FRU represents hundreds of people in employment tribunals each year. We are very keen to ensure that our experience, and that of our clients, is fed back into the policy making process to prevent problems for other people. We wanted to contribute to this consultation on employment status because it forms the basis of many employment disputes and getting it right from the start can help often vulnerable workers”.

  • FRU gives evidence to the Women & Equalities Select Committee
    Wed, 06/06/2018 - 15:27

    Following on from our recent submission to the enquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace, FRU Principal Legal Officer Michael Reed was invited to give evidence to a committee hearing on 6th June.

    The session focused on the law relating to sexual harassment in the workplace and the effectiveness of routes to redress including tribunals and mediation.

    Michael gave evidence on:

    ·         the Equality Act and other provisions and protections relating to sexual harassment, including third-party harassment

    ·         barriers to bringing a claim at tribunal

    ·         the extent to which the tribunal system meets the needs of those bringing claims involving sexual harassment and ways in which it might be improved

    ·         the role of mediation in dealing with reports of sexual harassment in the workplace.

    You can watch Michael’s evidence here:

  • Training days
    Tue, 06/05/2018 - 14:51

    We are please to announce dates for our next training days as follows:

    Social Security: Saturday 30th, June, 10am-4pm
    Booking will open on Friday 25th May
    Booking will close on Thursday 28th June

    Employment: Saturday 23rd June, 10am-4pm
    Booking will open on Wednesday 23rd May
    Booking will close Thursday 21st June

  • FRU welcomes our latest colleague
    Fri, 06/01/2018 - 13:32


    We are pleased to welcome our new Administrator/receptionist. Ayesha Tarannum has a wealth of experience and joins FRU from the Muslim Council of Britain. Ayesha will be the public face of FRU as she welcomes visitors to the office, deals with enquiries and processes referrals.

  • Select Committee publishes FRU evidence on redress for sexual harassment in the workplace
    Fri, 05/25/2018 - 09:58

    The Parliamentary Women and Equalities Select Committee invited FRU to make a submission of evidence to its current enquiry into Sexual harassment in the workplace. Our evidence is published by the Committee at this link


    We focussed our evidence on the following aspects of the enquiry, which are most relevant to FRU’s work:

    a. The efficacy and accessibility of tribunals and other legal means of redress

    b. Potential improvements to the processes involved in bringing claims, managing a case, attending a hearing, engaging in settlement negotiations and enforcing tribunal awards.

    We made the following key points:

    ·         Someone who has experienced sexual harassment and who chooses to pursue a claim is likely to spend at least six months dealing with the Employment Tribunal (ET) process. The process itself is difficult and distressing. FRU has seen many clients suffer from the effects of this stress. It is not at all uncommon for claimants to suffer from depression, anxiety and similar mental health conditions as a result of this process

    ·         Unless a claimant is a member of a union or has legal expenses insurance, advice and representation is financially out of reach. In the ET, legal costs are not awarded to the winning party as a matter of course. Tribunal awards are generally modest relative to the cost of legal representation, which is driven by the complex nature of these claims, rather than their financial value. This means that the vast majority of cases cannot be funded on a ‘No Win, No Fee’ basis and it is impractical for the claimant to pay privately, even if they have access to funds. This leads to a real or perceived ‘inequality of arms’ between themselves and their (former or current) employer.

    ·         The lack of provision of accessible and affordable early advice to potential claimants significantly inhibits the efficacy of legal remedies as a mechanism for addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. This lack of provision has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable groups of potential litigants such as claimants with disabilities, migrant claimants, claimants who speak English as an additional language and claimants with caring responsibilities (who are overwhelmingly women).

    ·         In any sexual harassment case the ET needs to make a finding on whether the alleged conduct was unwanted by the claimant. A claimant representing themselves in such a circumstance would be required to challenge the evidence brought by cross-examining employers or colleagues.

    ·         Represented employers generally offer settlement on standard terms, which almost invariably include confidentiality clauses. Claimants representing themselves often don’t realise that they can counter-offer alternative settlement terms in the course of settlement negotiations.

    ·         Claimants need emotional as well as legal support through negotiations, which can be unusually stressful in the context of sex harassment cases.

    ·         The rise in claims following the Unison Supreme Court judgement in July 2017 has placed the administrative and judicial resources of the ET under great strain. Hearings are typically listed for dates nine to twelve months after a claim form is accepted by the Tribunal, with further delays if any postponements are requested by either the employee or employer. Only 52% of open track cases (which will include almost all harassment claims) are resolved within 26 weeks. It is not uncommon for claims to take several years to resolve.

    ·         Due to the longer than average length of cases featuring sexual harassment, the delays in the listing of tribunal hearings significantly hamper the effectiveness of ET claims as a means of redressing sex harassment issues in workplaces. Delays lead to relevant evidence (e.g. email correspondence) and witnesses being more difficult to obtain for the hearing.

    Based on our experience we have made the following recommendations to the Inquiry:

    1.       Extending the three month time limit for the Employment Tribunal to have jurisdiction to hear sexual harassment claims to two years.

    2.       Legal aid provision for both early advice and representation for claimants who have claims which include sex harassment or sex discrimination elements.

    3.       Greater administrative and judicial resources made available to the Employment Tribunal.