Back in August we published an article on the Taylor Review on Modern Working Practices when it first came out – click The Taylor Review Article here to remind yourselves.
Following on from that, last month the Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)Committees published a joint report and draft Bill to close the loopholes that allow companies to use bogus ‘self-employment’ status as a route to cheap labour and tax avoidance, and that the law must not allow willingness to exploit workers to be a competitive advantage.
Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Rt Hon Frank Field MP commented on the draft Bill:
"The two Committees are… presenting the Prime Minister with an opportunity to fulfil the promise she made on the steps of Downing Street on her first day in office, with a draft Bill that would end the mass exploitation of ordinary, hard-working people in the gig economy.
“he Bill would put good business on a level playing field, not being undercut by bad business. It is time to close the loopholes that allow irresponsible companies to underpay workers, avoid taxes and free ride on our welfare system."
Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Rachel Reeves MP, referring to recent cases addressing the gig economy, highlighted the need for new laws and tougher enforcement to protect workers, and stated:
"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.
“We say that companies should pay higher wages when they are asking people to work extra hours or on zero-hours contracts.
“Recent cases demonstrate a need for greater clarity in the law to protect workers. Responsible businesses deserve a level-playing field to compete, not a system which rewards unscrupulous businesses.
“We need new laws but also much tougher enforcement, to weed out those businesses seeking to exploit complex labour laws, and workers, for their competitive advantage."
The full report can be read here
Comment: Watch this space to see what happens next, interesting times ahead in this area.
It seems as if the aim of this draft Bill is to switch the burden of proof i.e. that it will be for the business to prove that the people they engage to deliver services are not workers rather than the onus being on the person to prove that they are workers. It would make it easier for workers to gain their rights where they are indeed workers. Under the terms proposed, clearly the business gets the rough treatment as the Government seeks to crack down on unscrupulous practice and make it easier to enforce related statutory rights e.g. National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage, breaks and holiday pay.
Although the bill, if passed, would not spell the end for companies engaging self-employed contractors it would effectively mean that it is now more important than ever that the relationship between the company and a worker is accurately described and transparent as inaccuracies will be easier to challenge.