Changes to employment law proposed by review of modern working practices (the ‘gig economy’)

The gig economy is often defined as “a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs.” Prior to going mainstream, the term ‘gigging’ was most commonly used in the musical world, for those musicians who are only paid per concert, or ‘gig’ they do. Now the term has gone mainstream, how you interpret the ‘gig economy’ can vary according to your point of view. For some it offers a flexible working environment, for others it represents exploitation.

The Taylor Review of modern working practices puts forward proposals to help bridge this divide. More importantly it puts forward a number of proposals for updating the law to be more in line with modern working practices – including clarifying the law governing employment status and adjusting the scope of various employment protections. It advocates “good work” as opposed to jobs that make people little more than “cogs in a machine”. The review has a particular focus on self-employed workers who are engaged in the gig economy.

The report advises enshrining the key definition of ’employee’ status in primary legislation. It also re-defines the role of ‘worker’ so that the obligation to provide personal service no longer prevents an individual from being eligible for basic employment rights. For those who are ‘workers’ but not ’employees’ it recommends the introduction of a new term, ‘dependent contractor’. And it advises widening the definition of ‘output work’ to include those who provide their services through a digital platform. 

Whereas some of the report’s proposals are straight forward, others – such as the new definitions of “employee” and “worker” mentioned above – will obviously require much thought and consideration.

If you would like to read the Taylor Review in full, you can do so here.