Far too gig
The UK government needs to close those ‘gig economy’ loopholes that deny workers their rights, burden the welfare state and reduce the tax income that sustains it, according to a report from the Commons Work and Pensions Committee. The committee says that technological innovation has facilitated the growth of the gig economy to the point that 5 million people – 15% of workers – are now self-employed.
The report says many companies – such as Uber, Amazon, Hermes and Deliveroo – rely heavily on gig economy staff while promoting the idea that such ‘flexible working’ is equivalent to self-employment. “Profit, not flexibility, is the motive for using self-employed labour,” it stated.
“Deliveroo, along with Amazon and Uber, conceded that their business models would still be viable if they took on couriers and drivers as employees. They might simply be less profitable.”
The different entitlements of employees, workers and the self-employed are clear, it says. “We heard much to indicate, however, that the boundaries between the categories are not. A wide range of practices that seemed to blur the line between employment and self-employment were brought to our attention.
The committee points to an October 2016 tribunal which ruled that Uber drivers should be considered workers, not self-employed. The judgment referred to the “absurdity” of Uber’s proposition that the company’s role was limited to providing a platform for drivers to connect with customers. It stated this was “a pure fiction which bears no relation to the real dealings and relationships between the parties”.