People working for firms such as Deliveroo and Uber should be given extra protections, according to a government review.

Commissioned by PM Theresa May, and produced by Matthew Taylor, a former political strategist and CEO of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the review proposes a new category of worker known as ‘dependent contractor’ and recommends that firms operating in the gig economy space should guarantee minimum wage at specific times. 

It also recommends companies that control and supervise those who work for them should pay other benefits, such as National Insurance.

“For those who find themselves ‘dependent contractors’ now, rather than self-employed, the situation is more complicated. Many of those participating through the gig economy are already workers under today’s framework – as is being established by the courts on a case by case basis,” reads the report, which goes on to state:

“However, there will be some, especially where the right to substitution is genuine, who fall into this category for the first time. If a change of this type were to result in a loss of the flexibility so many platform workers desire, this would represent failure. As such, these changes must be accompanied by a new approach that supports genuine two-way flexibility enabled by digital platforms.”

Today’s report comes after months of mounting debate about the trade-off between flexibility, which is what the likes Deliveroo and Uber say they offer – and workers’ rights – often requested by drivers who seek greater clarity on their ’employment’ status.

Overall, the report has made the following recommendations for the government:

  • Task the Low Pay Commission with examining how a higher National Minimum Wage rate might apply to non-guaranteed hours.
  • Develop legislation to make it easier for all working people to receive basic details about their employment relationship up front.
  • Reform holiday pay entitlements to make it easier for people in very flexible arrangements to receive these.
  • Develop legislation that allows agency workers and those on zero hours contracts the ability to request a more formal working relationship

Addressing the recommendations, a spokesperson for Deliveroo, said: “As we have made clear, we want to continue offering riders the flexible work they want whilst also providing benefits.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the government so we can end this trade off between flexibility and security.”

A legal opinion

Sean Nesbitt, partner in the employment team at international law firm Taylor Wessing, weighed in on the recommendations: “The balance of flexibility with rights and technology with human approaches seeks to provide continuity, and to enable the UK to generate new opportunities.

“The Matthew Taylor report recognises that the UK has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world, and more so than any other member of the EU.

“Retaining and modernising the UK’s distinctive worker status with the ‘dependent contractor’ tag may help the UK provide a good labour market to compete for international investment, without risking European trade sanctions for undermining EU rules or worker rights but does not change the current three-tier approach in the UK (employee, worker/dependent contractor, self-employed).”

Automation and work

Additionally, the report also explored how developments in machine learning are increasingly setting the pace for automation in the world of work and what long-term societal implications this would have. 

“These discussions are often controversial, with widely varying predictions around the number of jobs that could be lost to automation. However, history has shown that technological advancements and the automation of individual tasks don’t just result in substitution of labour, but also lead to job creation,” it adds.

Theresa May said the government would now look at the recommendations seriously and respond in due course.

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