23 May 2017
With the media continuing to cast a keen spotlight on the rights of workers’ in the Gig Economy, cases involving the topic have hit many headlines recently. It is estimated that five million people operate as workers in the UK’s blossoming gig economy, with renowned app-based companies, such as Uber and Citysprint, attracting the attention of the media for their staff’s status. Most recently, representatives for Deliveroo have fuelled the fire by pledging to gain Union recognition and establish worker status. As well as these high profile cases, the Court of Appeal has recently handed down its judgement in Pimlico Plumbers ltd v Smith, confirming that a long-serving plumber was a worker and as such, entitled fundamental rights such as minimum wage and paid annual leave. This trend of workers being paid for each job - or “gig” - that they do, brings with it an air of independence and flexibility. However, the gig culture is made up of many juxtapositions; Companies have a relatively low cost workforce at their disposal who are ready and willing to work, but are under no obligation to accept work that is offered. A lack of stability and security for individuals operating in this manner has been one of the primary reasons for the attention cast towards the gig economy lately. The public have been sympathetic to the individuals who deliver the services, and seemingly feel that these well-known companies are exploiting a loophole in the labour market. These cases share some similar traits, including;
- The fact that the workers themselves are often taken on under convoluted contractual terms;
- Questions over whether the company can be considered a client of the individual or, in contrast, whether an individual is integral to the operations of the Company, and;
- Whether there is a general expectation that the individual concerned is expected to provide personal service, without substitutes.
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