The Taylor Review – Will it make a difference?

Olivia, Portrait Group,

The Taylor Review – Will it make a difference? 

Article written by Louise Rogers, Senior Associate Employment lawyer.

It is impossible to have missed the many legal challenges to employment status brought by Uber and Deliveroo drivers and others working in the “gig” economy over the last 12 months.

Staff have repeatedly alleged that they are workers, not self-employed/independent contractors, and hence that they are entitled to various statutory rights such as national minimum wage, paid rest breaks and holiday pay.

What are the latest developments in the challenge to employment status in the gig economy?

In 2017, there were an estimated 1.1 million individuals working in the UK gig economy.

In the past few months two Employment Tribunal hearings have found against employers who had tried to class staff as independent contractors.

In October 2017, Uber drivers succeeded in being classed as workers and hence that Uber have acted unlawfully. This was described as a “monumental victory” by the GMB Union. Uber have since issued an appeal against this ruling.

Around the same time, a group of food takeaway couriers working for Deliveroo confirmed that they were taking legal steps in the UK to gain union recognition and workers’ rights.

In January 2018, a courier with the logistics firm City Sprint succeeded in being classed as a worker, rather than an independent contractor.

What prompted the Taylor Review?

These decisions, subject to appeal, all confirm that employers have behaved unlawfully by treating individuals in the “gig” economy as self-employed and refusing to grant them certain rights. This further highlighted the need for a review of employment practices in order to ensure that all work in the UK’s economy is “fair and decent”.

The government commissioned the Taylor Review and the Taylor Good Work Report was produced in July 2017.

On 7 February 2018 the government published its full response to the Review and in doing so confirmed that it will hold consultations in four key areas: employment status; increasing transparency in the labour market; agency workers; and enforcement of employment rights.

What recommendations did the Taylor Good Work Report make?

They included, with particular reference to the gig economy:

  • Workers for firms such as Uber and Deliveroo should be classified as “dependent contractors” (a new term), with extra benefits;
  • Strategies must be put in place to make sure that workers do not get stuck on the National Living Wage (this applies to workers aged 25 and over); and
  • A national strategy to provide good work for all “for which government needs to be held accountable” to be put in place.

What are the government’s proposals following the Taylor Review?

Amongst other things, the government has proposed:

  • introducing a right to request a more stable contract for all workers including zero hour workers;
  • helping to enforce workers’ sick and holiday rights;
  • introducing a ‘naming and shaming’ scheme for employers who do not pay Employment Tribunal awards;
  • making sure new and expectant mothers know their rights; and
  • asking the Low Pay Commission to consider introducing a higher rate of the national minimum wage for workers on zero hour contracts.

What does this mean for employers?

The general consensus of the Taylor Review is that it has failed to meet expectations given all the hype surrounding this particular area of employment law and the seemingly widespread unlawful treatment of workers.

For example, it is unclear as to what precisely is meant by “a more stable contract for all workers”. The same applies to “dependent contractor” status. No further explanation has been offered for this, leading to much speculation as to how this will actually be implemented.

However, employers who engage casual or zero time workers should still take heed of the Taylor Review recommendations and be aware that changes are likely to be made in order to ensure appropriate protection for workers going forward.

This would especially be a sensible time for employers in the gig economy to conduct a thorough review of their working practices and the rights afforded to staff before they are faced with similar allegations of unlawful conduct from individuals who are in fact workers rather than self-employed contractors.

Should you require any advice or assistance regarding this article or any other aspect of employment law please contact Louise Rogers at [email protected] or by telephone 020 7408 8888.