The gig economy has ridden roughshod over vulnerable workers in recent years—but a recent review into employment practices could lay the basis for a radical reorganisationby Frank Field, Andrew Forsey / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
The vulnerable human underbelly of Britain’s labour market has, thankfully, taken centre stage in the national political debate. The prime minister deserves credit for helping to propel it there.
Last September when we submitted a report to her on bogus self-employment—as well as the poverty pay, chronic insecurity, and shoddy treatment that came with it—at Hermes couriers*, the PM responded almost immediately with two moves.
First, the PM referred Hermes to HMRC for an official investigation. Her second move was very much in keeping with her ability to set up and then see through major inquiries to get to the bottom of particularly sensitive (and hugely important) matters that have been kicked by some of her predecessors into the long political grass. In this instance, she commissioned an “Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy” under the chairmanship of Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA). So far, so good.
But the major test of the PM’s resolve on this particular matter comes in whether or not her government will now enact the necessary legislative measures to protect those vulnerable workers over whom the gig economy has ridden roughshod in recent years. The proposals outlined in the Taylor Review, which landed on her desk last week, could lay the basis for this much needed radical reorganisation of the labour market.
As we documented both in that study on Hermes’ working practices, as well as subsequent ones on Uber, DPD, and Parcelforce, companies operating within the gig economy have sought to compete with one another by keeping their labour costs artificially low.
The Taylor Review begins to plot a route away from this business model, by extending worker protections to a broader class of “dependent contractors,” i.e. those who are wrongly classed as self-employed by companies under the current system.
This would represent a hugely welcome move towards enacting the proposal we submitted to the Review, for a national minimum standard of fair work in the gig economy. The idea is to insert a floor so that no company can operate…