Our head of employment law, Anthony Purvis has given his comments to The Law Society Gazette in response to the government’s decision to defer on reform of the so-called ‘gig economy’. You can read them here.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy leanched a research project into the scale of the gig economy – the first piece of government-commissioned research into the practice. The report by former aide to Tony Blair, Matthew Taylor, pays particular attention to the one-sided flexibility of employment relationships.

15% of the UK’s labour market are currently self-employed, which has seen a rise in the number of people doing ‘gig’ work – mostly casual, short-term work that is increasingly sought by people through mobile phone apps when they want to work.

The increase in ‘disruptive’ businesses – where new ways of working and technology come together to create new products and services to better meet consumer demand – has led to a change in working practices.

Many doing ‘gig’ work have ‘worker’ or ‘self employed’ employment status. Employees are entitled to a full range of employment rights: the National Minimum and Living Wage, annual leave, rest breaks, maternity, paternity and adoption leave, right not to be treated less favourably as a part-time worker, right not to be treated less favourably as a fixed-term employee, right to request flexible working, protection from discrimination at work, minimum notice periods, collective redundancy consultation, statutory redundancy pay, protection from unfair dismissal and TUPE. In comparrison a worker is entitled to a range but not all employment rights: the National Minimum and Living Wage, annual leave, rest breaks, right not to be treated less favourably as a part-time worker, protection from discrimination at work.The self-employeed have no entitlement to employment rights beyond the basic health and safety and anti-discrimination framework.

The Taylor review of modern working practices made the following recommendations:

  • People who work for platform-based companies, such as Deliveroo and Uber, be classed as dependent contractors;
  • Strategies must be put in place to make sure that workers do not get stuck on the National Living Wage;
  • The review suggests a national strategy to provide good work for all “for which government needs to be held accountable”;
  • The government should avoid further increasing the non-wage costs of employing a person, such as the apprenticeship levy;
  • Employers need to prove that an individual claiming employment rights is not entitled to them. At the moment, the employee must prove their entitlement.