Re­port means changes to come for the likes of Uber

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Economy Watch - Byjohnkelly, So­lic­i­tor

In Novem­ber last year, I shared my thoughts on the gig econ­omy. That ar­ti­cle was largely in light of the Uber de­ci­sion by an English em­ploy­ment tri­bunal, which de­cided that Uber had to grant ba­sic em­ploy­ment rights to its sup­posed self-em­ployed con­trac­tor driv­ers.

The case demon­strated the pos­si­bil­ity that self-em­ployed con­trac­tors in the gig econ­omy may well qual­ify as work­ers within the mean­ing of the rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion.

While Uber’s ap­peal of that tri­bunal de­ci­sion will be heard in Septem­ber this year, we have in the mean­time seen action from the govern­ment in an at­tempt to pro-ac­tively re­solve a loom­ing headache that threat­ens to af­fect dozens of well-known busi­nesses — and tens of thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als mak­ing ends meet through en­gag­ing in this style of work.

The Taylor Re­view of Mod­ern Work­ing Prac­tices, which was com­mis­sioned by the govern­ment and led by Matthew Taylor, pub­lished its rec­om­men­da­tions this month.

Ahead of the re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion, Mr Taylor said the ul­ti­mate aim of the re­view was “for all work to be fair and de­cent”.

He added: “Work­ers should be treated like hu­man be­ings, not cogs in a ma­chine.”

So, what are the key rec­om­men­da­tions?

Aside from of­fer­ing a more gen­eral com­men­tary on the de­vel­op­ment of skills, healthy work­places and the pos­i­tive im­pact of the Na­tional Liv­ing Wage, the re­port has gone some way in at­tempt­ing to solve the Uber prob­lem for fixed-plat­form work­ers.

The so­lu­tion, the re­port says, is to create a new class of labour to move with the times — that of the ‘de­pen­dent con­trac­tor’.

While the re­port en­cour­ages those who pre­fer and ben­e­fit from flex­i­ble work­ing (whether that is with De­liv­eroo, Her­mes or in­deed Uber) to con­tinue to do so, it says that those in­di­vid­u­als must be granted fair­ness at work.

The re­port ad­vises that we need to see a greater em­pha­sis on the con­trol ex­erted over de­pen­dent con­trac­tors by those who en­gage them. In­ter­est­ingly, it also rec­om­mends that ac­cess to jus­tice is made eas­ier for those who wish to chal­lenge the sta­tus af­forded to them (although this is less of a con­cern in North­ern Ire­land, where tri­bunal fees don’t ap­ply, as in Great Bri­tain).

Per­haps more fun­da­men­tally, the re­port sug­gests that a writ­ten state­ment of terms should be pro­vided to both em­ploy­ees and this new class of de­pen­dent con­trac­tors from the first day on the job.

The Taylor Re­view also con­cluded that these de­pen­dent con- trac­tors of the fu­ture must ben­e­fit from min­i­mum wage pro­tec­tion.

While the re­port’s con­tents are only rec­om­men­da­tions to the govern­ment at this stage, it’s likely that at least some of the key rec­om­men­da­tions will come to fruition.

As a re­sult, all busi­nesses en­gag­ing con­trac­tors of any kind will need to be alert to the seem­ingly in­evitable changes that are in the pipe­line.

Uber’s ap­peal of the tri­bunal de­ci­sion will be heard this Septem­ber

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