Government to implement new ruling to grant gig economy workers' rights under EU Health & Safety law

Image credit: Piqsels/IWUGB remixed

Earlier this month the High Court ruled in favour of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in a detailed judgment which found the UK Government has failed to grant workers in the ‘gig economy’ the rights they are entitled to under EU Health and Safety law.

The Government has declined to appeal, the deadline for doing so having passed on Friday, and must now take steps to implement the ruling. In the meantime the judgement can now be utilised in legal actions taken either via the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authorities or employment tribunal claims.

1 in 10 adults engage in ‘gig economy’ work, accounting for at least 4.7 million people working in the UK with little to no health and safety protections prior to the ruling. All workers must now have the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Last week Kirsten Oswald MP tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in support of the ruling and calling on the Government to act. When questioned directly by Ms. Oswald during Prime Minister’s Questions on Monday 23 November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government “will take appropriate action to protect workers“.

Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB and a former bicycle courier, says: "Our members have been on the frontlines of this pandemic taking considerable risks on poverty pay to keep the country going through two lockdowns. Private hire drivers provide an essential alternative to public transport while couriers deliver COVID samples for testing and food to those who are unwell or shielding. We took decisive action to protect their health and safety and the Government must now do the same. These workers’ rights are now a public health issue.”

Kirsten Oswald MP, SNP Westminster Group Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Work, Pensions, and Inclusion, said: “The IWGB is to be commended for forcing the UK government to recognise that COVID-19 made workers’ rights a public health issue.

“The decision of the government to accept the ruling of the High Court means the way forward is clear and the government must act quickly to correct the law. Just as important, businesses must accept their responsibilities to their workers and their customers and act now to put in place appropriate health and safety measures."

Dr. Hina J Shahid, chair, Muslim Doctors Association, says: “Throughout the pandemic, patients who are key workers have reported unsafe working conditions and this has undoubtedly contributed to the excess burden of illness and deaths. The High Court ruling ruled by the IWGB will protect not only the health and safety of workers but of the public at large, by helping to control community transmission and beat back the virus. It is imperative that the government complies now.”

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