In the absence of government proposals following Mathew Taylor’s ‘Review of Modern Working Practices’ (published in June), the Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees have jointly published a draft Bill in an effort to tackle exploitation within the gig economy.
The Bill (‘Workers (Definition and Rights)’) was presented to Parliament on 18 October 2017, under the ‘10 minute rule’ and is due to have a second reading in the House of Commons on 19 January 2017. The stated purpose of the Bill is to try and close down ‘loopholes’ that allow businesses to use false self-employment to reduce the cost of labour.
Presenting the Bill, Chris Stephens (SNP) stated:
“In many ways, there is a false narrative about the modern world of work that suggests that 21st-century technology has created a different dynamic and that workers have to adapt to be more flexible and more open to different ways of working, leaving behind outdated notions of security and guaranteed reward. The clear implication is that full-time secure employment with rights, a pension and clearly defined hours is an outdated 20th-century concept, instead of the peak of a hard-fought struggle to redress the balance between employer and employee—or, at its most extreme, exploiter and exploited.”
We understand that the proposals within the Bill include:
- A new presumption of "worker by default" which would require companies to provide basic worker rights or prove that their working practices are genuinely reflecting of self-employment.
- A new obligation on employment tribunals to consider increased fines and costs orders if an employer has already lost a similar case.
- Enabling the use of employment tribunal class actions in disputes over wages, status and working time.
- Closing a loophole which enables agency workers to be paid less than permanent employees doing the same job.
Over a million people in the UK are in ‘gig work’. Cases such as those against Uber and Deliveroo have shone a spotlight on the growth of gig work in the UK and concerns about the fairness of these working practices. This latest Bill seeks to make some inroads on what some perceive as the scope of business to avoid taxes and workers’ rights. Unions on the other hand, have voiced criticism of the Bill’s ‘limited ambition’.
This article was first published on LinkedIn.