Better employment rights would boost gig economy, survey finds

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Jul 10, 2017
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Deliveroo has said it would be willing to pay its riders sickness and injury benefits

Toby Melville/Reuters

More British adults would be prepared to work in the so-called gig economy if employment rights were improved significantly through legislation, a survey released on Friday found.

As many as 40 per cent of working-age Britons said they would be more likely to accept short-term, casual work that is typically organised via mobile phone applications if stronger legal protections were in place. The research for the “big four” accountancy practice PwC found that while 77 per cent of those surveyed said they would prefer traditional full-time work with standard employment contracts, a significant proportion would consider gig economy jobs.

One of the leading employers in the sector – the meal delivery company Deliveroo – said it would pay sickness and injury benefits to its 15,000 UK cycle riders if the law were amended. The BBC reported that it had seen the company’s submission to the government’s review of the gig economy, in which Deliveroo argues that the law currently prevents it from offering those benefits because it classifies its riders as self-employed.

But one of the trade unions that has brought a range of legal challenges to gig businesses criticised Deliveroo for trying “to subvert the law”. Maria Ludkin, the legal director at the union GMB, said: “The only people who think the law is out of date are the companies like Deliveroo, who are trying to subvert the law and exploit workers. The law, when properly enforced, does the job of ensuring working people are paid national minimum wage and given the most basic employment rights.”

A private practice employment specialist said that lawyers were awaiting publication of the government’s review, being carried out by Matthew Taylor.

Leon Deakin, a partner at law firm Coffin Mew, said that if the review “produces persuasive evidence that gig economy workers actively choose that form of employment, the case for a wider range of categories would be easier to justify”. He continued: “However, if it is actually because of a lack of choice in the job market and this is deliberately being abused by employers, the better option may be to simply stick with the current groupings and clarify guidance, so that businesses have no excuse and individuals can more easily enforce their rights.”

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