HR · 27 June 2017

Author of gig economy review promises to maintain flexible employment

bogus self-employment
The Work and Pensions Committee has previously claimed the idea gig economy workers were self-employed was “a fiction”

An upcoming gig economy review commissioned by the prime minister won’t look to dismantle flexible working arrangements, the report’s author has announced.

Matthew Taylor, the former government advisor leading the review, told union representations and campaign groups at a Trade Union Congress conference recommendations would encourage ministers to “preserve and enhance” gig work where “two-way flexibility” was evident.

In this sense, the report would seek to end “master/servant” relationships that created uncertainty in the creation of shifts for workers.

Announcing new findings uncovered by the gig economy review, Taylor said three out of four on-demand workers enjoyed flexible working arrangements. Introducing heavy restriction was “the last thing we should do”, he said.

Taylor warned policy makers not to become “complacent” with Britain’s high employment figures. The country’s flexible labour market was one if its greatest strengths on the road to economic recovery, he explained.

At 4.6 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s jobless rate is its lowest since records began in 1975.

“Although this country has many weaknesses economically including productivity…when it comes to our capacity to create work, we’re pretty good,” Taylor told the audience.

The review, set to assist the government’s response to the new order of self-employment, is expected to land in July. It was opened by Theresa May to address potential exploitation within zero-hour contracts, such as those offered by retailer Sports Direct, and the supposed “bogus self-employment” of on-demand shift work at firms such as Uber and Deliveroo.

In October 2016, taxi app Uber lost a tribunal brought by workers, and in April teamed up with the Association of Independent Professionals & the Self-Employed (IPSE) to provide its 40,000 UK drivers with a special deal giving them access to basic employment rights such as sick pay and injury cover.

Meanwhile, around 200 Deliveroo riders recently won legal representation to challenge their employment status in court.

Taylor’s commitment to maintaining on-demand work contradicted the TUC stance, as it released its own report criticising the reality of the gig economy.

The union claimed one in four UK workers – over three million people – faced insecurity at work, while gig work was giving employers a free hand to exploit workers. Bogus self-employment, the union said, was costing the tax payer £4bn each year in uncollected revenue.

Taylor was clear, however, that the grey area of self-employment needed clarity. He said effective legal distinctions should be introduced to distinguish between employees, the self-employed and so-called “gig” workers.

The conference saw the TUC announce a new workplace rights agenda, as TUC general secretary said Frances O’Grady change was needed to manage the impact of technology.

O’Grady recently told The Observer newspaper she was “personally shocked about how technology is used as a tyrant in the workplace”.

Want to find out what life is really like at the heart of the gig economy? Our insider gave us an exclusive first-hand report of working for Deliveroo

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.