Bringing the curtains down on the gig economy?
The long awaited Taylor review on working practices in the UK was published on Monday 11 July. It looked closely at the much talked about "gig economy" comprised of some 1.1 million workers such as Amazon and Hermes couriers and Uber taxi drivers. Such workers are currently classified as self employed and therefore do not enjoy the employment rights of employees and workers and have no guarantee of any work. The contention is that that they have been mislabelled as self employed contractors with employers taking advantage of the lack of clarity in the law. Two parliamentary select committees are also considering this issue as the Government has pledged that all work in the UK economy will be "fair and decent".
Whilst recognising the importance of flexibility in the workplace, the Taylor report recommends that gig economy workers should be classed as "dependent contractors" with baseline employment rights. The official Labour Force Survey of March this year found that 68% of zero hours workers did not actually want more hours and valued the freedom of non employed work. However, it is important that such workers were not exploited and were afforded some degree of job security and earned at least the National Living Wage with opportunities for progression. The report therefore calls for protections in relation to wages, employment quality, education and training, working conditions, work/life balance as well as the right to be consulted on major issues in the workplace. The conclusion is that all workers should enjoy minimum levels of job security.
The introduction of a further classification of worker i.e. "dependent contractor" will complicate the employment status issue yet further increasing the scope for debate and litigation. Perhaps the better way would be to simplify the position so that you are either employed or self employed. This would certainly introduce greater clarity as self employment is a better understood concept. And is giving all "workers" full employment rights necessarily a bad thing for business? Well, unfair dismissal claims would only be available to those who have 2 years' continuous service which immediately excludes genuinely "casual" workers from bringing claims and a fairly treated workforce is likely to be a happy and productive one.
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