In a report into the ‘gig economy’, Frank Field MP has called for an “emergency intervention” by the Government to protect workers.
‘Gig Economy’ Report Findings
The findings of the ‘gig economy’ report, include the following:-
- Workers being fined for failing to work whilst ill. One worker stated: “If I fail to turn up to work I can get fined up to £400 a day. I recently had to go into work after sitting up all night with my mother until she died – and then do a 12-hour day.”
- That pay is often well below the national minimum wage and national living wage. One worker, who would be earning at least the national living wage of £7.20 in the employed sector, stated: “I, along with all other self-employed drivers, have been paid as little as £2.22 per hour. £3/£4/£5 per hour is not unusual and is probably the norm. [The company] will argue that we are self-employed and paid per car, but does that give them the right to pay third-world wages?”
- Workers being compelled to sign away their right to challenge their employment status. Field concluded that this was “symptomatic of the threatening and hostile environment in which some people are required to work”
- That workers were promised greater flexibility and pay which never materialised, in return for trading in their employed status
- That the ‘gig economy’ is “too often characterised by poverty wages, chronic insecurity and appalling treatment”. One worker stated: “Conditions of employment are precarious to say the least. The communication received from [the company] always has a threatening edge to it as they know people worry about their jobs.” Another worker said: “I cannot see if you are told how, when and what to do you can be truly self-employed. If [I] say ‘no’ to them you are threatened with contract cancellation and if you question them then you are told that you can always leave as someone else can take [my] place.” And another worker added: “This isn’t self-employment, or employment either. It’s a living hell, a nightmare scenario and the government needs to bring in legislation to stop these crooks from ripping off vulnerable people.”
Commenting upon these findings, Frank Field stated: “The poverty pay and shoddy treatment meted out to some of those workers is, sadly, inevitable in the absence of statutory minimum standards in the gig economy. That generates huge profits while minimising tax payments.”
Recent Legal Challenges
Many ‘gig economy’ workers over the last year have successfully challenged their employment status, with many legal challenges still in the pipeline.
The Taylor Review
Mathew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Arts, was appointed in November 2016 to conduct a review into modern working practices, including those within the ‘gig economy’. His report is scheduled to be published next week.