There has been much debate in recent months over the legal employment status of workers within the ‘gig economy’ – a growing trend whereby corporations provide their services through a number of ‘self-employed’ contractors who (in theory) choose to work as and when they please. Because of their supposed employment status, those ‘contractors’ would not be entitled to the usual catalogue of statutory employment rights. Various critics have however asserted that ‘self-employment’ is not always a true reflection of contractors’ employment status and they are in fact ’employees’ or ‘workers.’ In last month’s update for example, we covered the ‘Uber’ judgment where it was held the idea that the Uber’s 30,000+ drivers were each their own individual business was ‘fairly ridiculous.’
The Law Society is the latest commentator to enter the discussion. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee recently launched an inquiry into the status and rights of those working within the gig economy. In their response to the BEIS inquiry, the Law Society set out various changes to the law they believe could be made to better protect the rights of workers.
Though they do not confirm whether they view the gig economy as a positive or negative development, some of the key points they raised are:
Employment status is not sufficiently defined in law at present and there should be a re-appraisal of relevant legislation.
Plain language guidance should be produced that would help people judge whether they should be considered an employee, worker or self-employed.
The current employment legislative framework puts too much onus on the individual to assert that they are being exploited. The BEIS Committee should consider whether some businesses should have to show that they comply with certain employment legislation, such as National Minimum Wage requirements. The Law Society highlight how in the United States, the automatic assumption is that a person is employed and it is for the employer to show otherwise.
The above are at present only suggestions and therefore we do not know if they will result in any amendments to the law. We will however keep you updated on any major changes that do result from the BEIS inquiry. In the meantime, if you need assistance determining your own employment status or the employment status of those working for you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The full response can be viewed here.