A Finchley-based employment lawyer has said that the law has failed to keep up with the rapid growth of the so-call ‘gig economy’, which sees workers ostensibly self-employed and often picking up work through intermediaries based on a digital platform.
Hayley Trovato, a Senior Associate Solicitor at OGR Stock Denton LLP, who specialises in employment law commented after TUC research revealed that the sector has doubled in size in just three years.
“The ‘gig economy’ is the future of work. The traditional nine to five is no longer the norm, with the rise of digital platforms in all sectors revolutionising the way we now work.
“However, as we have seen from the flurry of recent cases such as Uber, Citysprint and Deliveroo, the employment rights of ‘gig economy’ workers have failed to keep up with the pace of change.
“The main issue surrounding ‘gig economy’ workers in these cases in the employment statuses of the individuals concerned,” said Hayley.
“It is a common arrangement in the ‘gig economy’ for individuals to be classed as being self-employed. Self-employed individuals have very little protection under employment legislation in comparison with employees or workers because it is assumed that they have more control over their own working conditions and benefit from the flexibility afforded by the status.
“This state of affairs works well much of the time, however, the problem that repeatedly crops up in the ‘gig economy’ is that workers are treated as self-employed but without the levels of control over their own working conditions that have traditionally been the hallmark of self-employment.
“The question of whether these individuals are genuinely self-employed or are in fact workers is one which has occupied the tribunals and courts for a number of years.”
She said that the Taylor Review was set up to address this, amongst other issues, and its recommendations go some way to addressing the problems by saying that, although worker status should be retained, new legislation should bring clearer definitions of employees, workers and the self-employed.
“This might bring some clarity to what is currently a very confusing system, which results in a vast number of workers being exploited without any obvious recourse to the legal system.
“In the US, the default status is that everyone is employed and then it is down to employers to take legal action if they believe otherwise. This may be one way of clarifying the position, although it seems unlikely that this approach would ever be adopted here.”
It is expected that legislative changes in response to the findings of the Taylor Review will be implemented from April 2020 under the banner of the Good Work Plan.