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Employment

Will Theresa May regulate the gig economy?

With more than 1.3 million people now working in jobs without guaranteed hours or sick pay, a government review highlights the exploitation of the gig economy

The so-called “gig economy” is not as fun or as flexible as it might sound. The precarious nature of vying for freelance jobs, or slogging on without holiday pay as an independent contractor, is often not a matter of choice.

There are growing fears employers are deliberately pushing more and more people into the grey area of the gig economy to strip back on rights and entitlements.

According to the latest research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), more than 1.3 million people are now working in casual part-time jobs without guaranteed hours or any sick pay.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said many businesses were trying to “have their cake and eat it” by making use of self-employed workers while “maintaining a level of control… that is more appropriate for a more traditional employment relationship.”

Businesses are trying to ‘have their cake and eat it’ by making use of self-employed workers whilst maintaining traditional control

Is the government getting ready to intervene and regulate?

Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed Matthew Taylor to lead a review into the UK’s gig economy, and Taylor says the country’s growing army of freelancers does need greater support.

“If you are subject to control – if as an individual in the relationship with the person who’s hiring you, they control your work, they control the basis upon which you work, they control the content of your work – that looks like the kind of relationship where the quid pro quo should be that you respect that person’s employment rights and entitlements,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

Taylor’s review has reportedly discovered British companies asking employees to register as “sole traders” to avoid the burden of sick pay and maternity leave.

Back in October May said she had commissioned the review to make sure “employment regulation and practices are keeping pace with the changing world of work.”

Her government did, belatedly, show it receptiveness to the struggles of the self-employed when it scrapped a budget plan to increase the national insurance contribution rates paid by millions of self-employed workers.

Conservative governments are supposed to be laissez faire entities, leaving companies alone to do their worst / generate wealth (delete as appropriate). But May has promised to work for a new “social contract” between business and society – part of her grand vision for the “shared society.”

It could be that British companies adopting the practices and ideology of “disruptive” tech giants like Uber might find themselves a little too disruptive for the Prime Minister’s tastes.

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