Report into UK gig economy slammed as 'wasted opportunity'

Unions say proposed reforms to not go far enough to give workers more rights

Frank Prenesti WebFG News | 11 Jul, 2017 13:00 - Updated: 13:00 | | |

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Deliveroo riders want their status clarified under lawDELIVEROO

The long-awaited report into the UK's so-called 'gig economy' and other working practices was dismissed on Tuesday as a “missed opportunity” by trades unions.

Written by former Labour Party adviser Matthew Taylor, the report looks into the effect of zero-hours contracts and other employment practices used by companies such as Deliveroo and Uber.

Taylor recommended that the Low Pay Commission should look at how a higher minimum wage rate could apply to workers who do not have set working hours and make it easier for them to receive holiday entitlements. He also called for legislation that would allow casual staff and those on zero-hours contracts that would allow them to ask for a formal contract of employment.

However, unions said the report did not go far enough and would not compel firms to improve the rights or working conditions of workers in the sector, many of whom are earning below the minimum wage.

Companies have been criticised for not providing benefits such as paid leave and sick pay as they claim their workers are self-employed "contractors". An employment tribunal is set to rule on the status of Deliveroo couriers this year.

There was further embarrassment for the government-commissioned report when it emerged that one of the review's members was an early financial backer of Deliveroo, the online fast food ordering company, according to the Independent Workers Union, which represents couriers, cleaners and security guards, many of whom do not have secure working contracts.

Entrepreneur Greg Marsh invested in the food takeaway app during a 2014 funding round that raised £2.75m, the Financial Times reported.

He told the paper he bought shares worth “less than £10,000,” which were finally sold in late January or early February this year — four months after the review began.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady said the report's findings would leave “many gig economy employers will be breathing a sigh of relief”.

“From what we’ve seen, this review is not the game-changer needed to end insecurity and exploitation at work.
“We’d welcome any nuggets of good news, but it doesn’t look like the report will shift the balance of power in the modern workplace.”

GMB union general secretary Tim Roache said there were some “laudable aims on the surface – and of course any progress in basic employment rights is welcome – but as a whole it’s a disappointing missed opportunity”.

“Everyone can pay lip service to wanting good quality, well-paid work but employers could offer that right here and now – they simply choose not to. They won’t decide to do so just because they’re asked nicely,” he said.

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