Thu, Feb 08, 2018 - Page 10 News List

UK to consult on gig economy workers’ rights

Reuters, LONDON

Britain yesterday said it would launch a consultation into workplace rights after mounting criticism from some unions and lawmakers that those in the “gig economy” are being exploited.

The self-employed in Britain are entitled to only basic protections, such as health and safety, while workers receive minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks, and employees are also guaranteed rights, such as maternity leave and sick pay.

Rapidly expanding tech firms such as Uber Technologies Inc and Roofoods Ltd’s food courier Deliveroo hire their drivers on a self-employed basis and have said they enjoy the flexibility of the gig economy, where people tend to work for multiple firms without fixed contracts.

Unions have said those practices are exploitative and have taken court action against Uber and others, arguing drivers deserve workers’ rights, winning a high-profile case against Uber in 2016 that the taxi app is appealing.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is keen to show she is tackling problems faced particularly by younger Britons, who deprived her ruling Conservatives of a majority in a snap election last year by overwhelmingly backing the left-wing Labour Party.

“We recognize the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes, enhancing the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business,” May said.

As part of the consultation, which is due to close in the spring, the government would consider whether new legislation is needed to make it easier to differentiate between employment categories, affecting rights and tax obligations.

It comes after a review by Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce chief executive Matthew Taylor last year said that many Britons working for firms in the gig economy deserved more benefits, such as minimum wage.

In response, ministers said millions of people would be able to seek a more stable contract, have vacation and sick pay enforced, receive a list of rights they are entitled to and be given a pay slip.

They yesterday also pledged to crack down on sectors in which unpaid interns are performing the role of a worker and would consider increasing penalties for employers who have lost similar employment tribunal cases in the past.

Labour has promised a raft of measures to boost workplace rights, including the abolition of zero-hour contracts, which offer no guarantees on working hours, and a hike in the minimum wage.

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