Belfast Telegraph

Report means changes to come for the likes of Uber

By John Kelly, solicitor

In November last year, I shared my thoughts on the gig economy. That article was largely in light of the Uber decision by an English employment tribunal, which decided that Uber had to grant basic employment rights to its supposed self-employed contractor drivers.

The case demonstrated the possibility that self-employed contractors in the gig economy may well qualify as workers within the meaning of the relevant legislation.

While Uber's appeal of that tribunal decision will be heard in September this year, we have in the meantime seen action from the Government in an attempt to pro-actively resolve a looming headache that threatens to affect dozens of well-known businesses - and tens of thousands of individuals making ends meet through engaging in this style of work.

The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which was commissioned by the Government and led by Matthew Taylor, published its recommendations this month.

Ahead of the report's publication, Mr Taylor said the ultimate aim of the review was "for all work to be fair and decent".

He added: "Workers should be treated like human beings, not cogs in a machine."

So, what are the key recommendations?

Aside from offering a more general commentary on the development of skills, healthy workplaces and the positive impact of the National Living Wage, the report has gone some way in attempting to solve the Uber problem for fixed-platform workers.

The solution, the report says, is to create a new class of labour to move with the times - that of the 'dependent contractor'.

While the report encourages those who prefer and benefit from flexible working (whether that is with Deliveroo, Hermes or indeed Uber) to continue to do so, it says that those individuals must be granted fairness at work.

The report advises that we need to see a greater emphasis on the control exerted over dependent contractors by those who engage them. Interestingly, it also recommends that access to justice is made easier for those who wish to challenge the status afforded to them (although this is less of a concern in Northern Ireland, where tribunal fees don't apply, as in Great Britain).

Perhaps more fundamentally, the report suggests that a written statement of terms should be provided to both employees and this new class of dependent contractors from the first day on the job.

The Taylor Review also concluded that these dependent contractors of the future must benefit from minimum wage protection.

While the report's contents are only recommendations to the Government at this stage, it's likely that at least some of the key recommendations will come to fruition.

As a result, all businesses engaging contractors of any kind will need to be alert to the seemingly inevitable changes that are in the pipeline.

Belfast Telegraph

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