Taylor Review: too much change for business, not enough for workers?

Here's how the major players responded to the Taylor Review on the gig economy

PM Theresa May gave no guarantees the government would implement the recommendations of the Taylor Review, stressing she would avoid "overbearing regulation".

Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA, was tapped by May to investigate the so-called gig economy. His review suggested a new status for workers, including the right to sick and holiday pay but no parental leave and no guarantee of minimum wage, though companies will be expected to show it's possible to achieve via their platforms. Critics argue it doesn't go far enough protecting workers, with some saying such jobs should simply be considered standard employment.

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In a speech today, May said that banning zero-hours contracts "would harm more people than it would help."

She added: "In other areas we may need to look again at where the law has not kept up with modern working practices, like for those who make use of platform working. But just as often it can be a case of making sure that existing laws are properly understood and enforced."

May said her government would formally respond to the review later this year while it's a government-commissioned report, it won't necessarily direct policy but stressed a need to not only protect workers but be "fair to businesses", and avoid "overbearing regulation".

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Uber and Deliveroo response

The gig-economy firms at the centre of the review naturally agreed that their businesses needed protection. "The government needs to ensure that any new measures are pro-growth so that companies can continue to expand and create well-paid opportunities for people in the UK," Deliveroo said in a statement. "The government should be under no illusions that any moves to restrict flexibility could undermine the very thing that attracts people to work in this sector."

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Uber's head of policy Andrew Burne responded to the review by pointing out that taxi drivers have long been self-employed. "The main reason why people say they sign up to drive with Uber is so they can be their own boss," he told Business Insider. "With our app drivers are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours. We would welcome greater clarity in the law over different types of employment status."

"Drivers using Uber made average fares of 15 per hour last year after our service fee and, even after costs, the average driver took home well over the National Living Wage," he noted. "We know drivers want more security too which is why we're already investing in discounted illness and injury cover, and will be introducing further improvements soon."

Labour concerns

The Taylor Review was generally dismissed by labour critics including Labour.

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The opposition party's shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey echoed campaigns such as "#DeleteUber" by telling the BBC she boycotted Uber because of how it "exploited" workers.

"I don't personally use Uber because I don't feel that it is morally acceptable but that's not to say they can't reform their practices," she told the Today show. "I don't want to see companies model their operations on the Uber model."

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The GMB union's general secretary, Tim Roache, told The Guardian gig-economy companies could pay workers better, but "simply choose not to". He said: "This isn't a quirk of the system, this is the system and without regulation, this system will inevitably continue."

Critics suggested the changes would do little to protect workers, who have already had success gaining protections via court challenges. If Taylor's recommendations are followed, the legal action won't end, noted Kemp Little employment partner Kathryn Dooks.

"Taylor's proposals on hours of pay, the minimum wage and statutory sick pay risk undermining the rights of employees and workers in the wider workforce in unforeseen ways," she said. "They will be complicated to administer and are bound to lead to even more tribunal litigation."

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 She said that considering issues such as how much control a company has over staff is "highly fact specific" and will require tribunals. While preliminary hearings may be free, the longer process may prove "too costly for most gig economy workers to contemplate".

11/07/17: Taylor Review "not a game changer" for gig economy workers

The gig economy work is worth up to 6bn annually in the UK, according to a government report, calling for companies such as Uber and Deliveroo to better protect the workers they employ.

The so-called gig economy has come under fire as workers have complained about unfair wages and lack of sick pay, with companies claiming they need not pay minimum wage or benefits because they're contractors not employees a fact courts have disagreed with.

Matthew Taylor was tapped by Theresa May's government to examine the rise of the gig economy and make recommendations on protecting the one million Brits that work under such a model, with his Taylor Review published today. He suggested creating a new category of employment called a "dependent contractor", who would be given sick pay and holiday pay, though not guaranteed the minimum wage. However, companies would need to show that it was indeed possible to easily earn a living wage via their platforms.

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The Taylor Review doesn't call for a ban on zero-hours contracts a key Labour policy with Taylor saying "many people who work zero hours want to do so".

"There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don't see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better," Taylor told the BBC.

The review isn't binding; May's government will have to decide to implement the changes and how to go about it. May is expected to say at the report's launch later today: "I am clear that this government will act to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self-employed and those people working in the 'gig' economy are all properly protected."

Stephen Cavalier, CEO of employment law firm Thompsons Solicitors, said yesterday after details of the report were widely known that the new "dependent contractor" status is unnecessary.

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"Recent Employment Tribunal rulings have required prominent gig economy employers to pay their workers basic benefits, like sick pay and holiday leave, and the national living wage," he said. "What is needed is for these rights and responsibilities to be clearly set out in legislation." 

He added the review "suggests the government will not take strong action, but simply leave it to those same firms to deliver improvements in corporate culture and employment rights. Experience shows that this will not happen." 

"The takeaway from this report is that the offering delivered by Matthew Taylor is a dog's dinner and certainly not what workers ordered," Cavalier said.

His view was echoed by unions. "I worry that many gig economy employers will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning," Frances O'Grady, general secretary of TUC, said according to Sky. "From what we've seen, this review is not the game-changer needed to end insecurity and exploitation at work. We'd welcome any nuggets of good news, but it doesn't look like the report will shift the balance of power in the modern workplace."

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