Taylor Review: how will protecting ‘gig economy’ workers affect employers?

Barry Warne, partner and head of employment law at Keeble Hawson

Barry Warne, partner and head of employment law at Keeble Hawson

By Barry Warne, partner and head of employment law, Keeble Hawson

A few days before the Taylor Review was unveiled, one of the biggest players in ‘the gig economy’, Deliveroo, made headlines by calling for changes to the law on flexible employment practices.

The development would allow what Deliveroo called its ‘independent contractors’ to enjoy increased benefits while retaining their treasured ability to work when they wanted to.

The move might have been good PR, an attempt to steal the Review’s thunder or a genuine desire for a better deal for delivery drives, couriers and cabbies.

Whatever the reason, it heralded change in those working environments where temporary positions are the norm and organisations contract with ‘independent workers’ for flexible engagements with no security or protection – the so called ‘gig economy’.

How far and how fast this goes will depend on the government’s reaction to the Taylor Review and similar reports and Theresa May has said she will look at its proposals “very carefully and seriously.”

The Review’s recommendations are certainly a step in the right direction. While the report makes the point that flexibility is a good thing, Taylor seeks to end arrangements that many claim allow companies to reap great benefits while workers carry the risks.

Gig economy ‘platform’ organisations are not obliged to provide work – and when they do, the worker must supply their own vehicle or tools, have business insurance and pay their own tax and NIC. Should they be injured or unable to work because of illness, the platform provider does not have to support them financially.

Taylor proposes renaming the current category of ‘worker’ (people who are not employed but are obliged to do the work personally) to a ‘dependant contractor’, entitled to important rights such as sick pay in addition to minimum wage and paid holidays.

The move is bolstered by the recommendation of a clear definition for dependant contractors that will easily differentiate them from the genuinely self-employed. This will enable them to know where they stand and what their rights are, instead of assuming that they are self-employed, just because they are labelled as such by the platform provider, when in fact they are not. At present, they would have to apply to a Tribunal to establish their status, a costly and stressful exercise.