Plain English Guide to British Employment Law
The rise of the gig economy
In recent years, a new employment trend dubbed the ‘gig economy’ has become increasingly popular amongst large corporations. While many will reap the flexible benefits of self employment, it is becoming more prevalent for contract workers to come forward to demand basic employment rights. Some large companies are exploiting “self employed” workers, thereby avoiding paying certain taxes and providing employment law rights.
A momentous case has recently been won ordering the ride hailing app Uber to classify drivers as workers so they can be granted fundamental employment rights. Because of the self employed classification, many drivers are not receiving the national minimum wage, sick leave or holiday pay. It is now believed that in the UK alone over 40,000 Uber drivers may have a potential claim, subject to an appeal judgment. With many already coming forward to address the negative implications, it is encouraging other contractors to seek legal advice.
Recently, the multinational courier service Hermes have been reportedly paying their self-employed delivery drivers less than the national minimum wage – as low as £5.90 an hour. Details have also emerged that some Hermes couriers feel concerned about the implications of taking time off for illness or pregnancy. Another corporate delivery service Parcel Force has also received criticism amid reports that sick drivers are fined up to £250 per day if they cannot find a replacement courier.
A group of couriers who work for The Doctors Laboratory, which provides services for the NHS including the delivery of emergency blood supplies, have also stepped forward to oppose the terms of their gig employment. Courier Ronnie De Andrade said: “I have been working for them for over five years and I don’t see my life progressing like this. I can’t get a mortgage, I have no pay when I go on holiday and I can’t get sick because I won’t get paid.” The spate of cases has led to MPs debating some of the issues surrounding the gig economy.
This type of employment may be good solution for some, especially those with other priorities in life or who simply choose to have a more informal work pattern. However, it often seems more beneficial for corporations who want to avoid the red tape associated with employing staff.