Why we welcome the Uber ruling

Anyone who believes in fairness at work, that work should pay and be the route out of poverty or who is concerned that the so-called 'gig economy' is just a smokescreen behind which workers are being exploited, will have been heartened by the recent Employment Tribunal ruling on the status of Uber drivers.

If one thingĀ comes out of that caseĀ it is that there needs to be greater clarity around the distinction between being employed or self-employed. Once upon a time this was quite easy and straightforward, but in these days of a flexible labour market it is increasingly difficult for some people to know what their status is.

Why is this important? Simply because if you are an employee you are entitled to far more rights and far greater legal protection than if you are a self-employed sub-contractor. Rights such as the minimum wage, sick pay, holidays, protection from unfair dismissal (with suffciient service), rights to redundancy payments (after 2 years) to name but a few.

Until last week Uber drivers and many more people working under similar arrangements, especially in the delivery sector, were denied all of these rights and in many cases ended up working for less than the minimum wage. Once Universal Credit is rolled out to cover working people the number of hours they work will be key in determining their entitlement and if the arrangements under which they work do not deliver enough houyrs they could find themselves sanctioned.

Don't get me wrong for many people genuine self-employment is a really good option, giving them the fredeom to manage their working life as they wish, to innovate to develop their ideas and to create a very satisfying job. But, far too many companies seem to want the lack of cost and responsibility of using self-employed sub-contractors but to retain the control over the hours they work and what they do of conventional employees and are creating a section of the workforce that can be best described as the false self-employed.

As with the campaign to curb zero hours contracts, we would argue against the creation of bogus self-employment and instead support Citizens Advice's calls for a statutory test for self-employment with the presumption that a worker is an employee unless the employer can show otherwise. Alongside better and cheaper access to employment tribunals and employment advice these measures should go some way towards ensuring the flexible labour market ceases to be the rip-off labour market.

This entry was posted on November 1, 2016

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