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MPs Propose New Bill That Supports Gig Economy Workers’ Rights

MPs Propose New Bill That Supports Gig Economy Workers’ Rights

The government is under pressure to change laws that allow firms to use self-employment status to hire cheap labour and avoid tax.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee have prepared draft legislation to help close loopholes that allow “irresponsible companies to underpay workers” in order to better protect workers who are a part of the gig economy.

The committees have voiced their support for several recommendations laid out in the government-backed Matthew Taylor review into the new economy.

Mr Taylor said: “This excellent report shows that whatever concerns the government has about my recommendations, parliamentary support is no longer a reason not to pursue them.”

New legislation proposes that gig workers receive employee benefits

The new draft bill calls for clear-cut definitions of modern employment status and says that companies over a certain size should treat their employees as workers and provide them with employee rights, such as a minimum wage and access to holiday and sick pay.

In a bid to counteract the job instability experienced by the 1.5m people who currently work under “zero-hours” contracts, with no promise of secure and regular work, the bill recommends higher pay for hours that are not guaranteed in a contract.

In addition, the proposed legislation would demand that companies adequately prove that those working for them are self-employed rather than employed in the event of any dispute, eschewing current practice that places the onus on the worker to do so in court.

The bill also states that companies should be legally obliged to provide all workers and employees with a written statement of their employment rights and entitlements before they begin working with the company.

Tackling the “mass exploitation” of workers within the gig economy

Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, says that the draft bill “would end the mass exploitation of ordinary, hard-working people in the gig economy”, and should be supported by the prime minister so that she may “fulfil the promise she made on the steps of Downing Street on her first day in office”.

Mr Field said: “The Bill would put good business on a level playing field, not being undercut by bad business. It is time to close the loopholes.”

Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Uber, Deliveroo and others like to bang the drum for the benefits of flexibility for their workforce but currently all the burden of this flexibility is picked up by taxpayers and workers. This must change.”

Rise of insecure, low-paid work in the gig economy

In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people working in the gig economy. Approximately 15% of workers in the UK, or around 5m people, are now classified as self-employed. Around 1.6m of Britain’s self-employed work for gig economy employers, such as Uber and Deliveroo.

While many workers are drawn to the gig economy for the flexibility and freedom it allows, many are faced with poor working conditions and unsatisfactory workers rights in comparison to those working in traditional employment.

Workers in the gig economy do not enjoy the same benefits of those enjoyed by traditional employees, such as parental leave and sick pay. In addition, many workers in the gig economy do not earn the minimum wage, as there are no laws in place that require companies to pay contracted workers the basic rates given to employees.

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