A long awaited report into modern working practices, commissioned by the government in response to concerns about the impact of the ever growing gig economy, demands that all employment should be ‘fair and decent’.
The report by Matthew Taylor, head of the Royal Society of Arts and former-advisor to Tony Blair, was commissioned last year by Theresa May to address issues that have arisen regarding the treatment of workers employed on zero hours contracts and in the gig economy.
The report estimates that some 1.3 million people are employed in the gig economy and 900,000 people are reported to be on a zero hours contract.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Taylor said: “If all the recommendations are carried out – and that would be a hard and complex process and it will take some time – it will be the biggest reset of employment law for the most vulnerable workers that we’ve seen in a generation.”
The review makes seven key recommendations, among them the call for a new category of worker. The ‘dependent contractor’ category would strengthen rights to sick pay and holiday pay for those workers who do not have full employment rights under current legislation.
The report suggests that people working for platform-based companies, such as Deliveroo and Uber, would be classed under this new term and that there should be a clear distinction made between dependent contractors and self-employed workers.
Another recommendation is that workers are given the right to request fixed hours and permanent contracts. However, the report received criticism from some quarters for not recommending that a blanket minimum wage be extended to these workers.
The report does however suggest two-way flexibility on pay, meaning that companies should pay the minimum wage in exchange for a contractor working during busy times.
The proposals, said Mr Taylor, are designed to help people who spend “years working for a company on zero hours contracts but who, without a guarantee of hours from week to week, can’t get a mortgage or a loan” and who are often told to be prepared for work, only to then find that none is available.
Mr Taylor said it has come to light that the gig economy has created an imbalance between employers and workers: “Of all the issues that were raised with us as we went around the country, the one that came through most strongly was what the report calls one-sided flexibility.
“One-sided flexibility is where employers seek to transfer all risk onto the shoulder of workers in ways that make people more insecure and makes their lives harder to manage.”
The CBI responded to the report, saying that it contained some proposals that would “be of significant concern to some businesses.”
A spokesperson for Deliveroo, however, said: “We would welcome the opportunity to work with the government so we can end this trade-off between flexibility and security.”
Uber meanwhile issued a statement saying that it would welcome “greater clarity in the law over different types of employment status”.
The 115-page report, which covers a wide range of employment issues, did not attack the gig economy. It recognised that the flexibility offered by this working practice has brought high levels of employment and it referred to March’s Labour Force Survey, which revealed that of those people working on zero hours contracts, 68% do not want more hours.
Similarly, Mr Taylor stated that there was “nothing wrong with zero hours contracts” and that “good employers” had no cause for concern, so long as these contracts offer genuine two-way flexibility.
Speaking at the launch of the review, Theresa May said that the Government would take the recommendations seriously and will respond later this year.
Stating that she did not feel the report went far enough to protect gig economy workers, shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, told the BBC: “If it looks like a job or it smells like a job then it is a job, and the worker should be employed, and I think in those situations where a worker is carrying out work on behalf of an employer… they should not be exploited as flexible workers.”