Publish and be damned? Not when the evidence says no.
When the workplace rights team began writing new content about pay, our research showed the first thing most advisers did was check someone’s employment status.
Turns out, most people don’t know what employment status is. As we learned over and over during testing.
Checking employment status
Your employment status (whether you’re classed as self-employed, an employee, a worker, or one of the more niche categories) affects your employment rights.
Most employment rights depend on your employment status. So if you’re having problems getting sick pay, maternity pay, redundancy or holiday pay, the very first thing one of our advisers will do is check your employment status.
If you’re an employee, for example, you probably should be getting sick pay – if you’re self-employed, you probably won’t.
And of course where it gets tricky (and just a bit dodgy) is when your boss tells you you’re self-employed but you’re actually legally classed as an employee or worker – and therefore entitled to a lot more employment rights than you’re getting.
Why build a tool?
Our intention was to build a simple tool to help people work out their employment status – and therefore what rights they’re entitled to.
However, the user need was an assumption. And that was our fatal mistake.
Initial ‘guerilla’ testing on the streets showed people had no understanding of ‘employment status’, guessing it was employed, unemployed, part time or full time – results duplicated in a second round of testing in the Citizens Advice office.
Lab testing with the public (observing people using the tool embedded in our live pages ‘Holiday pay – what you’re entitled to’ and ‘Getting paid less than minimum wage’) showed people liked the tool but expected it to solve their immediate problem (eg am I entitled to holiday pay?).
And testing yet another iteration showed people found the tool simple and easy to use – but were still confused by the subject and the jargon.
Why all the confusion?
Testing clearly showed people liked the tool – but it didn’t help them solve their problem.
And even worse, it was creating a new problem – when someone got a result they weren’t expecting (ie ‘worker’ when their boss had told them they’re ‘self-employed’), they simply didn’t believe us.
There were two main issues:
- Employment status and employment rights are tricky subjects, even for experts. The language, concepts and results need a lot of explanation.
- The flat content we embedded the tool into was only tweaked to accommodate the tool – it wasn’t written specifically for an employment status user journey.
A lot of work had gone into building a tool to help the public check their employment status.
But the evidence clearly showed it wasn’t working.
As much as we wanted to publish the tool, we decided to shelve it until we could dedicate the resources to creating a better user journey and specific employment status content.
But… with a few small tweaks, we adapted the public tool for advisers.
The tool’s only a starting point for them, because employment status can be complicated, but it’s tested well and is now live on our AdviserNet website and being used with clients.
So although we had to admit the solution we were working towards simply wasn’t ready for the public yet, it’s a helpful resource for another audience – our advisers.