The gig economy is an issue that urgently needed addressing this year. The Taylor Report, whilst lacking teeth, did outline some suggestions to improve conditions for the 1.1 million people currently doing gig work.
The Government however, has not implemented the report well and the proposals do not really address any of the issues with the gig economy. One of the most notable absences was not reforming employment status, although there will be a consultation on it, and four other consultations on related matters.
What the government has proposed in this Gig Economy Update is to:
- ask the Low Pay Commission to consider introducing a higher rate of the national minimum wage for workers on zero-hour contracts
- help enforce workers’ sick and holiday rights
- introduce a right to request a more stable contract for all workers including zero-hour workers
Gig economy workers, Trade Unions and employment law commentators have stated that this response does little to address the issue and does not bring policy in line with the recent Tribunal decisions against Uber, Addison Lee, Pimlico Plumbers and CitySprint, which ruled that the gig workers were not self-employed but in fact workers.
Furthermore, couriers for The Doctors Laboratory (TDL), who transport blood donations to hospitals, recently won full employment status in an out-of-court settlement. Unlike the previous cases, where the ET ruled the couriers had worker status, the TDL granted the couriers full employee status and all the benefits that brings. This means the issue is still in a grey area many employers of gig staff are in the dark about their staff’s rights.
The lack of action and clarity on the issue has been further magnified this month following the tragic death of Don Lane, 53, a courier for DPD. Mr Lane was a diabetic and, due to the demanding conditions of being a courier and limited employment rights including holiday and the requirement to put in a substitute driver, missed several appointments to treat his condition.
He was unable to attend appointments due to long work hours, lack of holiday entitlement and an £150 penalty charge if he was unable to complete a shift. He had collapsed at the wheel of his van twice due his condition and died shortly after collapsing the second time.
Now, self-employment, worker status and employee status, can all be beneficial to the employer and employee in the right circumstances. For example, many tradesmen enjoy being able to set-up their own businesses.
However, when a particular employment status is abused to the point where people are unable to seek urgent medical attention – and subsequently drive on roads in an unfit condition – there is a clear indicator they are not truly their own boss. To prevent further tragedy and uncertainty this issue needs addressing quickly.