Proposed 'gig economy' bill would be a major step forward for all bogus self-employed workers

Proposals to tackle the ‘gig economy’ through a draft bill have been described as “a positive first step” in ridding the UK of bogus self-employment, by Unite, the UK’s largest union.

The draft bill has been jointly proposed by the select committees for Work and Pensions and Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The key recommendations of the bill include:

  • Legislation to provide clearer definitions of employment status
  • Workers operating for a company above a certain size would all be classed as workers, unless the company proved otherwise
  • All workers to receive a statement on employment terms and rights on day one of employment
  • A pilot scheme to pay above the national minimum wage for workers without guaranteed hours
  • Workers to have the right to take class action employment tribunal cases to establish employment status
  • Scrapping the Swedish derogation that allows agency workers placed with a company to be paid less than direct employees
  • Stronger penalties for breaching employment law
  • More naming and shaming of all non-accidental breaches of employment rights

The proposal that workers would be deemed to have worker status, unless an employer was able to prove otherwise, has the potential to transform industries such as construction, which are heavily reliant on bogus self-employed workers.

Worker status means that you must be paid the national minimum wage, receive holiday and sick pay, and also are entitled to other basic employment rights.

In 2016/17, there were 1,076 million construction workers who were paid via the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), the government’s stand-alone, self-employed tax scheme for the industry. Unite believes that the vast majority of these workers, who comprise 47 per cent of the entire industry, are self-employed.

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said:

The draft bill would be an initial step forward in tackling the rampant, bogus self-employment which afflicts industries such as construction.

“Unite has always been clear that without decisive government action, the rampant exploitation, casualisation and the hire and fire culture, which is undermining the long-term effectiveness of the construction industry, will not be tackled.

“Under these proposals, not only would the bogus self-employed be given key rights such as the entitlement to take paid holidays, but workers could join together to take cases to secure full employment status.

“The government has repeatedly expressed warm words on creating a level playing field for workers who currently get a raw deal, it now has the opportunity to turn those words into action.”