New workers rights legislation falls short of expectations despite recent gig-economy court cases

New legislation released by Government to upgrade workers’ rights was introduced today - including a day one statement of rights for all workers setting out leave entitlements and pay. The government will today set out the biggest package of workplace reforms for over twenty years, with reforms that they say will ensure the UK leads the world in meeting the challenges of the changing world of work. However news around a ‘soft’ reform was heavily criticised by unions and workers with changes being described as “baby steps” and falling short of what the country needs heading into Brexit. The government announced several new reforms and recommendations, but the changes effecting the taxi and private hire industry centre around the long discussed Matthew Taylor report. They include: 

  • Highlighting that banning zero hours contracts in their totality would negatively impact more people than it helped

  • that the flexibility of ‘gig working’ is not incompatible with ensuring atypical workers have access to employment and social security protections

  • platform based working offers welcome opportunities for genuine two way flexibility and can provide opportunities for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways

Measures outlined in the package form part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy, published last year, which sets out how the whole of the UK can build on its strengths, extend them into the future, and capitalise on new opportunities. However, minicab operators Uber and Addison Lee have recently lost court cases which found their workers hired on a self-employed basis eligible for workers rights including minimum wage and holiday pay. Commenting on the government announcement on workers’ rights, the leader of Unite, the biggest union in the UK, Len McCluskey said: “The government’s plans are reluctant baby steps at best, and hardly give confidence that post-Brexit UK will be a country of decent jobs.  “This is a time of historic low wages and of chronic job insecurity. We need proper, substantial action to combat this but what is on offer today falls well short of what this country needs to deliver work that pays. “People on zero hour contracts and workers in the insecure economy need much more than a weak right to request a contract and more predictable hours.   “No matter how many times the government re-announces the same offer, unless and until this country takes a leaf out of New Zealand’s book by banning the use of zero hours altogether, working people will continue to be exploited and work will never be the route out of poverty.” Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has a labour market of which we can be proud. We have the highest employment rate on record, increased participation amongst historically under-represent groups and wages growing at their fastest pace in almost a decade. “This success has been underpinned by policies and employment law which strikes an effective balance between flexibility and worker protections but the world of work is changing, bringing new opportunities for innovative businesses and new business models to flourish, creating jobs across the country and boosting our economy. “With new opportunity also comes new challenges and that is why the government asked Matthew Taylor to carry out this first of a kind review, to ensure the UK continues to lead the world, through our modern Industrial Strategy, in supporting innovative businesses whilst ensuring workers have the rights they deserve.”

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