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The Gig Economy - Where are we now?

View profile for James Overton
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“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening."

In recent years, the gig economy has singlehandedly disrupted the entire status quo of the labour market, providing new and alternative means of employment. Almost all of us have an involvement with the gig economy in some way or another. Either through calling an Uber or ordering food, we as the consumers are constantly in demand for instant goods and services at the touch of a button. But what does this mean for the workers operating in this on demand economy?

Entire industries have evolved from this new landscape of digital commerce with app based firms such as Uber and Deliveroo becoming household names for their efficiency and convenience. However, in the last 18 months there have been a string of high profile cases before the Employment Tribunal in the UK with the key issue surrounding status of employment for workers within this evolving on demand economy. The cases have been fought and judgements have been made, but where does that leave us now?

The Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Frank Field has set out an impressive cause for reform to end the “rampant injustices” faced by gig workers. Field has recommended an overhaul to the judicial system in order to give employment tribunal new powers to handle individual status cases so they can be resolved in a more efficient and timely way. He has also recommended clear definitions, in line with the Taylor report in terms of worker and independent contractor status. The CEO of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins has recently spoken out and has agreed, suggesting that the gig economy needs reform, but that the legislation in place currently is allowing the gig economy to flourish.

In a ground-breaking change of events the delivery firm Hermes have now provided employees with the option to be paid an hourly rate and can also elect to accrue pro-rata holiday pay of up to 28 days per year. This comes as a result of a legal battle won by the couriers at Hermes in which the judgment held that the couriers were workers rather than self employed. For now, at least Hermes delivery drivers know where they stand, but the pressure has stepped up dramatically in the wake of this milestone for other gig economy firms to follow suit.

So, unfortunately for the gig workers out there the wait continues for a reform of the employment legislation, however there are some incredibly positive aspects to take away from these recent judgements. It seems firms operating within this space are now becoming more conscious and aware of their workers needs and accommodating for employment security and satisfaction. The question is whether more cases need to be brought to Employment Tribunals in order for this mind set to become the norm.

Please contact the Employment Team for advice, whether you are an employer or employee or give us a call on 01295 270 999.

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