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Taylor Review: 'Gig Economy' Workers Support Changes To Conditions, But Concerns Remain

'It’s a good thing to be told what you are going to be earning.'

10/07/2017 15:28 | Updated 11 July 2017

A government review into practices in the so-called ‘gig economy’ could see tougher measures to prevent the exploitation of workers, reports suggest.

Matthew Taylor, the author of a report commissioned by Theresa May last year into issues raised by those working ‘gig’-style jobs, said there was “clearly an issue with fairness” under current rules.

“We have travelled all round the country, and it has seemed to us that there has been an attempt by some firms to transfer all the risk onto the shoulders of the most vulnerable workers.

Charles Platiau / Reuters
Food app Deliveroo has become emblematic of problems within Britain's 'gig economy'
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Uber has defended its working practices in Parliament and in court

“There is clearly an issue with fairness, and we can encourage employers to offer their workers more security,” Taylor told The Sun.

Around one million Britons are believed to be employed in the 'gig economy', which is typified by short-term, piecemeal work.

Many of those working for firms like Uber and City Sprint are classed as self-employed and not subject to traditional employment rules governing pay, sickness or holiday leave.

The Taylor review is believed to propose:

  • An ‘opt-in’ system which predicts ‘real time’ earnings potential and warns people if they risk being paid below the minimum wage - while removing the right to redress;
  • Employees be given the right to request fixed hours or permanent contracts - and the number of such requests to be publicly available; 
  • Sick pay should be given to casual workers as an accrued right;
  • All casual workers should be given a copy of their working rights in clear English

One simple idea

Current and former riders for takeaway food app Deliveroo said they would welcome the ‘opt-in’ system which would allow them to see potential low earnings in advance - even if it prevented them from challenging it later.

One former Deliveroo rider, Astin Maltby, told HuffPost UK that he “quite often” earned less than the minimum wage when he worked for the firm.

“When the Gateshead zone opened, it was really quiet. You’d go all day without an order. You would be paid £6.25 to just sit there and do nothing,” he said.

Astin Maltby
Astin Maltby was 19 when he started with Deliveroo in Gateshead

The 20-year-old, who had been working for the firm for 13 months before leaving in April, added: “In the quieter zones like Gateshead initially because of the lack of orders people were just getting paid £6.25 to just sit there, and maybe pick up one or two orders at £1 or £2 a drop, each day.”

Responding to the proposed ‘opt-in’ feature for work that may pay less than the minimum wage, Maltby said: “I would like to see the amount I was likely to earn realistically. That would be a good idea.”

Maltby is one of a number of Deliveroo riders challenging the firm in court over their former employment status. He said friends still working for the firm were unhappy.

“I’ve got friends who are still at Deliveroo who are looking for other jobs because the shifts they are applying for aren’t coming through. They won’t be getting more than 25 hours a week,” he added.

Time Out
Nathanial, a current Deliveroo driver, said an opt-in feature would remove uncertainty

Nathanial, a current Deliveroo rider who spoke to HuffPost with the firm’s permission and supervision, said the review’s recommended ‘opt-in’ feature would help remove uncertainty.

“At the moment you log in and see if it’s busy, it’s hit and miss. It’s a good thing to be told what you are going to be earning.

“The uncertainty is a bit of a downer as for me it just means there’s sometimes no point working, so I’d go home and have a break,” he said.

“The only problem is that you don’t know how long to wait for.”

The 24-year-old works 12pm until 10pm most evenings with a few breaks in between. He added: “Luckily for me I live close to my [delivery] area, but I know others that don’t.”

In an apparent pre-emptive strike ahead of the publication of the review tomorrow, Deliveroo last week urged the government to improve workers’ security while maintaining flexibility.

‘Deeply concerning’

A spokesperson for the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain said the suggestion that people would be prevented from challenging employers who pay under the minimum wage was “concerning”.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, they said: “While we will have to see what comes out in the report tomorrow, what we are seeing in these leaks to the press is deeply concerning.

"‘Gig economy’ workers already have a right to the minimum wage and these proposals seem to want to erode those rights, particularly by preventing workers from pursuing employers that pay below the minimum wage.

“The point of this review should be to figure out how to make things better for these workers, not worse.”

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