Employers urged to prepare for protection of “gig economy” workers

Barry Warne

Employers are being advised to take steps to ensure that they are not caught out by any changes to the law following a recent review of modern working practices. 

The call comes from hlw Keeble Hawson partner and head of employment law, Barry Warne, as the government considers the recommendations of the Taylor Review. 

This review proposes renaming the current category of ‘worker’ – people who are not employed but are obliged to do the work personally – to a ‘dependant contractor’ entitled to important rights such as sick pay plus minimum wage and paid holidays.  

As a clearly defined status, everyone would know what they are entitled to from day one, without the cost and expense of applying to a Tribunal to rule on it. 

Barry Warne said: “A growing public desire for reform makes it very likely that new rules will be imposed on organisations who contract ‘independent workers’ for flexible engagements with no security or protection – the ‘gig economy’. Some even predict that the government will go further than Taylor’s suggestions by ushering in more far-reaching reforms.” 

Mr Warne urges companies to find out if they are likely to be affected by greater protection for gig economy workers, then prepare for changes.  

He recommends that a good starting point for managers is to examine their current hiring arrangements to determine whether those who provide services are employees, workers or self-employed. This will tell organisations whether they are complying with existing law – and allow them to reduce future backdated payments if not.  

This process will also be a good yardstick to assess whether anticipated future legislation along the lines of the Taylor Review will apply to them and the likely scope and scale of their impending responsibilities and liabilities. 

Consulting a legal practice with an acknowledged expertise in employment law will ensure certainty. Beyond that, regular reviews with independent professionals will also help companies stay abreast of developments, prepare for any upcoming confirmed changes and avoid doubt and dispute.

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