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Playing fair in the ‘gig’ economy – advice for employers

07 July 2017

In a recent report, former work and pensions committee chair Frank Field MP has warned that the government must intervene in order to prevent exploitation of ‘gig economy’ workers.

A ‘gig worker’ is someone who works flexibly, on a freelance or short-term contract, as opposed to a permanent employee. Some say that such contracts are beneficial due to the flexibility they offer to complement modern life, but others argue that they are exploitative.

As these workers are classified as self-employed, they are not afforded the same rights and entitlements as employees. Firms such as takeaway app Deliveroo and taxi service Uber engage workers on such a basis, with the former recently publicly asking the Government to re-assess employment legislation to bring it up to date with the age of the gig economy.

Flexible working on such a basis carries numerous benefits to employers – they needn’t pay national insurance or fork out for entitlements such as paid holiday or maternity leave. But the popularity of these contracts clearly leaves gig workers open to exploitation, with stories surfacing of workers earning under £2.50 per hour on contracts that could be cancelled at any time.

So what can employers do to ensure that they do not exploit workers or fall foul of the law, whilst still accommodating the flexible working arrangements that are so popular in today’s labour market?

Flexibility can benefit both businesses, who may have peaks and troughs in their demand, and workers, who may have other commitments and priorities around which they have to fit their work.

We’ve seen in the news in recent months that employment law has not necessarily kept pace with the changing nature of modern work.

This makes it all the more difficult for employers to know what their obligations are in regard to different working arrangements.

Employers seeking advice on how to navigate the maze of flexible working whilst staying on the right side of employment law can attend a ‘Building flexibility into your workforce’ seminar hosted by Matthew and his team at Stonehouse Court Hotel on 21 September. The seminar, aimed at directors, senior executives and HR professionals, runs from 9:00am to 1:30pm and costs £30 per person, including lunch and VAT. To book, visit our event listing on Eventbrite or alternatively email events@willans.co.uk or call us on 01242 542931.

Matthew leads our employment team, acting for clients which include multi-national companies, owner-managed businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Clients describe him as “responsive, commercial, understands where employers are coming from and gets right to the point, with meaningful and practical advice.”

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Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
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Matthew Clayton MA LLM (Cantab), CIPP/E
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