Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Employment Law
Reported by Radhika Morally
Scottish Affairs Committee report reveals need to crackdown on unfair or illegal employment practices
In the most recent report of the Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC), it has come to light that the growth or new employment practices and business models (such as the gig economy and use of zero hour contracts) has made the definitions of employment status more difficult to define. Consequently, the report suggests that this has led some employers to avoid the obligations they have towards their employees.
Following the committee’s enquiry into sustainable employment, it has made several recommended measures for the government to implement, one of which is a study into the prevalence of unfair or illegal working practices in Scotland. Although the SAC has embraced much of the UK Government’s response to the Taylor review of employment practices, it stands by the view that much more needs to be done, with a particular focus on protecting the rights of employees and workers in what is a rapidly changing working environment.
The report itself encompasses work by the Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees, along with the findings of the Taylor Review published last year. One of its conclusions was that in certain situations such as zero hour contracts, workers must have the right to request a contract that more accurately reflects the reality of their situation. To help facilitate this, the committee has suggested that the government implement schemes such as extending the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to all workers.
Ultimately, the committee highlights the joint responsibility of the UK and Scottish government to create an economy and labour market which supports meaningful employment, whilst, as put by the chair of the committee Pete Wishart MP, keeping pace with the evolving environment.
- Criminal Law
Reported by Sara Saquib
A turning point in tackling sexual harassment? First man convicted under Belgium’s anti-sexism law
Sexual assault, be that physical or verbal, has become something that many people have sadly began to accept as a norm in their day-to-day life. However, the internet was taken by storm when a documentary filmed by film student Sofie Peeters highlighted just how bad the problem is in Brussels.
This film became the catalyst which sparked intense debate amongst politician in Belgium, with statements that there were already talks of introducing a legalisation which would criminalise the verbal abuse that many women in Belgium were facing on a daily basis. A law was implemented in 2014 which meant that offenders could now face large fines.
Today, news has come out that Belgium has convicted the first man under this 2014 law. This man was stopped whilst driving by a female police officer and insulted her several times because of being a female police officer. He was charged €3,000 (£2700) and told that failure to pay the fine would lead to him facing a month in prison. The law is allowed to be implemented in cases where the offender clearly violates the dignity of the victim, with the hope of lessening that number of verbal abuses women face on a daily basis.
- International Law
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
US Naval Carrier Visits Vietnam
The US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has set anchor off the coast of Vietnam. It is the first US ship of this size that has visited the country since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. The visit is meant to demonstrate the countries’ growing military ties.
At the start of the Vietnam War, American troops first landed at the city of Da Nang, where the Carl Vinson currently sits.
The last time US warships and carriers were present off the Vietnamese coast was when aerial bombing raids were requested on North Vietnamese military positions in South Vietnam and North Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.
40 years on, US-Vietnamese relations are strengthening. Reuters reports that Vietnamese envoys have been working to ease the concerns of neighbouring China with the prospect of broader security co-operation between Hanoi and Washington.
“The visit of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to Vietnam signifies an increased level of trust between the two former enemies, a strengthened defence relationship between them, and reflects America’s continued naval engagement with the region,” said Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
Experts say the visit serves as a response to China’s growing naval influence in the disputed South China Sea region. Despite the US navy frequently monitoring the South China Sea they are now routinely shadowed by Chinese naval vessels, regional naval officers say.
- Family Law
Reported by Anna Flaherty
Office of National Statistics marriage figures highlight need for legal reform
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released statistics on the number of marriages that took place in 2015. Here were the key findings of the surveys:
- There were 239,020 marriages between opposite-sex couples in 2015, a decrease of 3.4% from 2014.
- Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples in 2015 were the lowest on record, with 21.7 marriages per thousand unmarried men and 19.8 marriages per thousand unmarried women.
- In 2015 there were 6,493 marriages between same-sex couples, 56% were between female couples; a further 9,156 same-sex couples converted their civil partnership into a marriage.
- In 2015, civil ceremonies among opposite-sex couples decreased by 1.6%, while religious ceremonies decreased by 8.0% compared with 2014.
The decline in the number of marriages has been ongoing since the 1970s. The “family” has become less and less centred upon a foundation of marriage, with more families existing outside of the traditional nuclear family. Compared to past decades, individuals are much more likely to make family arrangements and commitments without feeling inclined to marry. Whilst this trend continues to become ever-more prevalent, the law continues to ignore it. Without many of the legal protections that marriage provides for families, many unmarried homemakers are put at a disadvantage.
As a result, pointers for legal reform include 1) making the law more inclusive for cohabiting couples, and 2) giving pre-nuptial agreements a statutory footing. In doing so, the law would create greater clarity for individuals who cohabit, not simply leaving them to walk blindly into such relationships without the knowledge that they could be disadvantaged as a consequence. With a greater knowledge of the legal rights that marriage creates, as opposed to just cohabiting, a greater number of individuals may choose to marry.