In his keynote address to the TUC Congress, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has called for gig economy workers to be given full employment rights. He promised that a Labour Government would go beyond all the “positive recommendations in the Taylor report” and extend sick pay, parental leave, or protections against unfair dismissal to gig economy workers. Specific policy commitments outlined by McDonnell include:
Shift the burden of proof away from employees, so that the law treats them as a worker unless the employer can prove otherwise.
Extend full rights to all workers including so-called “limb (b) workers", entitling everyone in insecure work to sick pay, maternity and paternity rights, and the right against unfair dismissal from day one of their employment.
Increase resources for HM Revenue & Customs and ensure employers who break the rules are fined.
When technology creates new employment relations or legal loopholes, extend regulation to strengthen enforcement and keep pace.
Repeal anti-trade union legislation and strengthen trade union rights - give workers a seat at the Cabinet table by establishing a Ministry of Labour and roll out sectoral collective bargaining across the economy.
Critically, one of these consultations addressed employment status, the issue which lies at the heart of high-profile legal battles between gig economy companies and workers, such as those involving Uber, Hermes and Pimlico Plumbers.
In recent years, these court cases have created a highly polarised version of the gig economy as a zero-sum game, in which only one side can win at the expense of the other. Where to strike the right balance between flexibility and security remains as hotly contested as ever, and McDonnell's proposals are unlikely to produce a political consensus.
While politicians fight rhetorical battles, Inline Policy has identified the infrastructure that has started to grow up around the gig economy: WorkerTech.
This emerging infrastructure, designed specifically for the gig economy and therefore aligned to the needs of those working and providing work in it, is already supplying much of the support that policymakers hope to achieve via legislative means. As a result, worker protection is being strengthened while maintaining labour market flexibility.
To learn more about WorkerTech, please download our white paper which sets out the key characteristics of WorkerTech and identifies the companies which are leading the pack.