Put gig workers on a par with freelancers – report

So-called ‘gig workers’ should be put on a par with self-employed traders and more than in just name, for the sake of fairness and the economy, a new report says.

In fact, both types of freelance worker must have their rights and protections reinforced if the UK is to turn a profit from them, warns the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.

They must also have their legal and tax status clarified; be given recourse if they come up against bad practice and have the Low Pay Commission determine their rates, wrote the REC.

Recommending these actions in its report, The Uberisation of Work, the confederation said each is vital because without them, there are “risks to employers, recruiters and candidates.”

The latter, notably online workers using project sites, are being exposed to “a whole host of new opportunities and risks that sourcing work through more traditional means avoids,” says the report.

So they may end up being “exploited workers, who are self-employed in name only,” whereas they actually deserve “sustainable means for them access to social security protections,” just as other freelancers have.

And given that as many as a third of employers plan to advertise work on digital platforms by 2021, and half of the UK workforce may be working on a freelance basis by 2020, the onus is on the government to act.

“Policymakers need to get to grips with these new trends so that the UK can make the most of opportunities,” urged REC’s chief executive Kevin Green.

“We must ensure that freelancers, interims and contractors who find work this way are protected.”

The confederation’s appeal was welcomed by freelancing body IPSE, as was its report, which says only 13 per cent of Britons think they will be working a 9-to-5 by 2025.

"Yet those who [are going to] find work on these sites [like Upwork, Task Rabbit and Freelancer.com] are stuck in the legal grey area between 'employed' and 'self-employed,'" said IPSE's chief executive Chris Bryce.

“If the gig economy is to flourish, the government must respond to new technologies by reconsidering employment and tax status. If the government doesn’t get agile, the economy will never be agile either.”

 

27th July 2016

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