Government kicks gig economy rights “into the long grass”

By Oliver Smith 7 February 2018
Image: Getty/ALLVISIONN.

Today’s announcement does little to clear up the confusion.

Can we finally resolve the conundrum of what exactly a ‘gig economy’ worker is?

With much fanfare this morning the Government declared “millions to benefit from enhanced rights” as part of employment changes being made in response to last year’s Taylor Review.

As a reminder, the Taylor Review led by Royal Society of Arts chief Matthew Taylor, promised “clearer legal status and better protections” for gig economy workers.

Sadly today’s announcement appears to do neither.

Modern working

On the positive side, the headline changes include holiday and sick pay entitlements for all workers, including casual workers and those on zero-hours contracts.

However, it fails to tackle the problems around the definition of ‘self-employed’ workers, a definition which Uber and Deliveroo use to exempt their drivers and couriers from protections.

The Government said it will launch “a detailed consultation” to explore options that would make it “easier for both the workforce and businesses to understand whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed…”

But no timeline was offered on either the consultation’s start, or when it’s expected to deliver.

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), called today’s response: “an exercise in kicking the problem into the long grass.”

“What we needed to see was a serious extension of rights to [workers] and a serious proposal on government enforcement of employment law, not just a consultation on the topic.”

The waiting game

Ultimately, today’s changes are a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ for Britain’s gig economy workers.

The fight to be recognised as workers, and the entitlements that comes with, remains a legal battle fought on a case-by-case basis – as UK Uber drivers have found in their years-long legal battle.

One day the Government will truly define what ‘gig economy’ work really is, and offer a “clearer legal status and better protections” for those working in it.

Sadly, today is not that day.

The Memo has contacted Uber and Deliveroo for comment.