Gig economy

Rights for workers in the gig economy

Rights for workers in the gig economy

Millions of people in the UK perform work in the so-called ‘gig’ economy – a term commonly used to refer to the prevalence of freelance work and short-term contracts in the labour market.

Popular companies in the gig economy include Uber or Deliveroo. People on zero-hour contracts are often included as well. While many of these people are treated like self-employed individuals, some court cases have established that they are actually contracted workers, and as such have more rights than previously assumed.

Employee or worker?

According to the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees can generally be classed as one of the following:

  • Limb (a) worker – An individual who works under a contract of employment
  • Limb (b) worker – An individual who by any other contract, verbal or written, personally undertakes work for someone else

The term ‘worker’ usually refers to Limb (b) workers, who have fewer rights than standard employees. For example, they may be terminated without notice and have no right to maternity pay. However, it’s wrong to assume that workers don’t have any rights at all, as the National Minimum Wage, holiday pay and the right to not be discriminated against still apply to them.

People who are self-employed have very few rights, but there have been cases where companies have wrongfully classed their workers as self-employed contractors to provide them with fewer benefits. In the cases of Smith v Pimlico Plumbers and Aslam v Uber BV, it was found that workers had missed out on rights like minimum wage and annual leave because the companies they worked for didn’t consider them to be employees – even though the employer exerted significant control over work conditions, pay and other aspects of the job.

In another case, the courier CitySprint had classed their worker Maggie Dewhurst as a contractor even though she had to accept jobs on the company’s terms and wear a company-issue uniform with a company ID badge.

After numerous similar high-profile cases and several government reports, there have been calls for the system to protect gig workers’ rights better.

Changes to the gig economy

Did you know, one in four workers in the gig economy report that they are earning less than the National Minimum Wage?

In February of this year, the government announced plans to improve rights for gig workers. It isn’t clear when these plans will be implemented, but the changes that have proposed include:

  • giving all workers the right to a payslip
  • allowing flexible workers to demand more stable contracts
  • ensuring workers are informed of their rights when they sign a contract
  • increasing employment tribunal fees for irresponsible or malicious employers

This list of potential changes will take a long time to implement, and the preliminary negotiations and discussions may even lead to a different outcome. In the meantime, workers who suspect they are missing out on fundamental employment rights should seek independent legal employment advice from us. We have the extensive knowledge you need if you’re having problems with employment contracts and rights.

Contact Foys Solicitors for employment law advice

In the twelve months between February 2017 and February 2018, 2.3 million people in Great Britain worked in the gig economy. It seems many of these people are classed as ‘self-employed’, even when their work indicates they are performing roles more similar to a traditional employee.

If you suspect you may be missing out on your gig workers’ rights, contact the employment law specialists Foys Solicitors. Our first consultation with you is completely free, so you have nothing to lose – and potentially a lot to gain.

For expert advice on your employment rights, use our Online Form to get in touch.

Alternatively, you can call your local Foys Solicitors office:

  • Doncaster – 01302 327 136
  • Retford – 01777 703 100
  • Worksop – 01909 500 511
  • Clowne – 01246 810 050
  • Rotherham – 01709 375 561
  • Sheffield (Waterthorpe) – 0114 251 1702
  • Sheffield (Chapeltown) – 0114 246 7609

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