Case law development: labour law review – Liverpool

A report on an event aimed at exploring the relationship between labour law and the workplace.

21st March 2019

Conference report

By Dave Hawkins: Course Co-ordinator Merseyside Trade Union Education

The Institute of Employment Rights have for many years organised informative and thought-provoking conferences and once again provided an excellent event.

Today’s conference took on a new format with breakout sessions to actively engage the audience. Case law development explained; Labour law review was today’s topic and those attending – both regulars and first-timers – were not disappointed.

James Harrison, chairing the conference, gave an overview of the day and gave an update on forthcoming events and literature from the IER: information regarding these can be found on the website.

Today’s speakers, Betsan Criddle and Tara O’Halloran from Old Square Chambers, covered three different areas of case law: collective issues and industrial action, worker status, and whistleblowing.

Collective issues and industrial action

The initial session covered collective issues and industrial action. Betsan began by saying that there is currently a move by the trade unions to use the law for the collective good of their members; however, the law should not be seen as a substitute to good workplace organisation, rather it should complement it.

The session then went on to highlight recent case law, some of a helpful nature to workers, others not so. Of the nine cases that Betsan highlighted, three involved the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) and this was very useful to the POA union officials that were in attendance. All of the cases gave the delegates food for thought when contemplating industrial action and how the law could positively or negatively affect their decisions.

The breakout session following this section produced some excellent contributions from the floor and excellent advice from Betsan on how the law could be used. Questions came from a wide range of workplace organisations including ambulance staff, local Authorities, POA and ‘winter gritters’.

Download the presentation for this session here.

Worker status

The next session was a combined presentation from Betsan and Tara covering ‘worker status’ and the recent developments around this. The cases of Autoclenz v Belcher and the Uber case were among the cases discussed. The breakout session following this session again produced some very good contributions and questions for Tara and Betsan.

Download the presentation for this session here.


The afternoon session covered ‘whistleblowing’ and on a personal note I found this to be the most interesting presentation of the day. Tara again took us through recent case law developments highlighting the many pitfalls involved in whistleblowing cases. Again, the delegates took full advantage of the breakout to raise issues about the subject.

Trade union representatives need to keep up to date with not only employment legislation but how the law is being interpreted by the courts and this conference will enable representatives to support their branches and members more fully. The new format with breakout sessions really seemed to work with some excellent contributions keeping the speakers on their toes. I look forward as usual to the next event.

Download the presentation for this session here.

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