Gig economy reforms needed as numbers soar
The invisible army
One in 10 working-age adults in the UK work on gig economy platforms, double the number who did so in 2016, according to a study by the University of Hertfordshire and the TUC.
The research suggests that 4.7 million people now work in the gig economy and warns that workers’ rights have not kept pace. Ursula Huws, professor of labour and globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “In a period when wages have been stagnant, people are turning to the internet to top up their earnings. “We see the Uber drivers and food delivery workers on our streets every day. But they’re only a small proportion of gig workers. They’re outnumbered by an invisible army of people working remotely on their computers or smartphones or providing services in other people’s homes.”
The analysis found the number of working-age adults who had worked for an online platform at least once a week had more than doubled from 4.7% (2.3 million workers) in 2016, to 9.6%, (4.7 million) today. In 2017, the Office for National Statistics estimated the proportion of people working in the gig economy was already 4.4%.
Gig economy claims should be fast-tracked
MP Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, led an enquiry into employment law evasion in the gig economy last year. He has recommended that gig economy cases challenging employment status should be “fast-tracked” through the judicial system to ensure that exploitation of workers is tackled quickly and effectively.
A clamp down is needed
The name Pimlico Plumbers has become synonymous with the gig economy and workers’ rights over the past eight years. And with MP Frank Field criticising its lengthy legal battle, founder and CEO Charlie Mullins suggests his perseverance was never about having a ‘David and Goliath tussle’ in court. He firmly believes that gig economy reform is needed, but that he and his company should not be vilified. He has stated that the law should crack down very hard on companies that are paying low wages and not providing employment benefits, but it should also allow businesses that financially compensate workers for their rights to do so without prosecution.
He claims that Mr Smith (who claimed against him) had been paid more than £500,000 over three years by Pimlico Plumbers before he attempted to sue them for the right to holiday pay, regardless of signing a self-employed contract.
After eight years of expensive and lengthy legal battles, Pimlico Plumbers won the case in an employment tribunal in March.
Published: 2nd August 2019