As chaos continues in Westminster and Theresa May’s position as PM continues to be called into question, the media mostly focuses on the potential oncoming changes to government that could happen. While speculation is a part of reporting, and we cannot ignore the importance of what is happening in Parliment, the focus of every flexible worker should be on the changes the government and the courts have already made in the last week, and what they need to do to protect themselves going forward.
Too many employers are taking advantage of the self-employed to avoid paying the minimum wage, as workers on zero hour contracts qualify for the minimum wage, but the self-employed do not. The self-employed must remain vigilant that they are being compensated fairly for the amount of time they are working.
This played out in the courts with Addison Lee, where it was decided that drivers are workers and are not self-employed, and thus are entitled to national minimum wage as well as paid holiday. This keeps with the general ruling of the court in regards to companies such as Uber and Pimlico Plumbers, except with companies such as Deliveroo, who won their case in 2017 to keep riders as legitimately self-employed.
The government is expected to soon announce legislation to clarify the criteria that determines whether people are workers or self-employed by bringing tax and employment laws into alignment, and will give workers in the gig economy the right to request a temporary or fixed-hours contract after 12 months.
IPSE also feels that IR35 reform, Universal credit, and Brexit are to blame for a fall in self-employment and a rise in joblessness. This mirrors the call by the FSB to secure a Brexit deal that benefitted sole traders in the UK.
Sarah Mason wrote a brilliant op-ed for the Guardian about driving for Lyft in Los Angeles, and the gamification used to entice workers to improve their driving ability. Workers in the UK need to be careful about systems like this, where they can become so caught up in accessing pleasing numbers that mean relatively little that they forget to actually protect themselves in their work. In the same way that the FT asked what obligations do tech companies have to society, we must ask what obligations our employers have to us.
In order to protect ourselves, is it right to ask whether or not we should strike similarly to DPD drivers? Or whether we should challenge our employers who deny us basic rights in court, much like how the IWGB is with Deliveroo?
What is clear is that to protect the future of flexible work, steps must be taken to first protect ourselves.