On 11 July 2017, Matthew Taylor’s review of Modern Working Practices was published. Commissioned by prime minister Theresa May towards the end of 2016, it sought to analyse employment legislation and practice in light of recent changes including the so-called gig economy.
Many of Taylor’s 53 recommendations were anticipated. One of them was the clarification of employment status, as well as greater protection for gig economy workers, and others finding themselves ill catered for by legislation conceived before current engagement models. Other recommendations went further than lawyers had anticipated, with the report calling for reforms to the employment tribunal process.
The aims of the report, if achieved, will create a better work economy for all. But as ever, the devil is in the detail, and it will not be easy to redefine and clarify employment status, particularly in light of high-profile employment tribunal cases – Deliveroo, Uber and City Sprint come to mind.
Understanding your own and others’ employment status is key to knowing what employment protections you and they have; getting the guidelines right is therefore key, particularly to the so-called gig economy participants whose employment status lies somewhere between “employee” and “self-employed”.
It was announced by May that the government accepted nearly all of Taylor’s recommendations and has launched four separate consultations on key areas covered by the review. But although the government says nearly all the recommendations will be adopted, unions believe the plan will still leave 1.8 million workers without rights. Further, it is one thing to say the recommendations have been accepted, it is a more onerous task putting that into practice.
It is estimated that over one million people are working in the gig economy, with the majority in professional, administrative or creative services, a third providing a skilled or personal service and 16 per cent driving or delivering (Uber, Deliveroo type businesses). The changes proposed by Taylor, and adopted by the government for consultation, could have far-reaching changes for those within the gig economy.
Both Uber and Deliveroo have argued that drivers enjoy the flexibility and that the companies are creating jobs for people who can’t necessarily work the traditional way. In fact, Deliveroo has argued that offering more benefits puts riders’ flexibility at risk. It called for a new category of worker that offers the best of both worlds.
Whilst it remains unclear what impact the consultation will have on those working in the gig economy, any steps adopted will have to get the balance right between the flexibility – which many say they enjoy – and the security of things such as minimum wage and sick pay. The cost to business and the public purse must also be taken into consideration.
What we do know is that the proposals are a damp squib. Most significantly, there are no proposals about changes to the law on employment status – although there is to be a consultation – we shall watch this space as they say..
Michelle Morgan is senior associate in the employment team at Gardner Leader solicitors
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