By Alistair Farrow
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‘Worker status’ is not good enough

This article is over 6 years, 10 months old
Issue 2562
The Taylor Review came after workers at companies such as Deliveroo challenged the bosses
The Taylor Review came after workers at companies such as Deliveroo challenged the bosses (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The Taylor Review into working practices was published on Tuesday. It was brought about by challenges by workers in bogus self-employment, but there’s a danger that the result will serve the bosses.

The review looked into the status of workers by examining the three legal categories of employment—“employee”, “worker” and “self-employed”.

People working in the so-called “gig” economy, such as the construction industry, for courier firms such as Deliveroo and for taxi firms such as Uber, are often classified as self-employed.

This means their bosses don’t have to pay national insurance contributions or sick pay.

A series of employment tribunal rulings have found that workers in bogus self-employment should be classified as workers. That fight forced the Taylor Review to take place.

The review suggested that the Tories introduce a “dependent contractor” status to replace “worker status”. That means people with worker status will get more legal protections in the workplace, such as sick pay and holiday pay, but that’s still not enough.

The review states, “If it looks and feels like employment, it should have the status and protection of employment.” But the report gives little recommendation about enforcing this view.

Workers with “employee” status are the most secure and are entitled to the statutory minimum sick pay. But this is only £89.35 a week and is only available for 28 days. That’s not enough to survive on and means people are forced to work while sick.

If the Taylor Review was a serious examination of working practices then it should have addressed all these issues.

“The message to employers is there is nothing to fear from this,” said inquiry head Matthew Taylor.

The review has given cover to employers who claim that “flexible working” is what workers want.

Workers’ voices have been excluded from the debate.

So workers are on their own in the fight for better rights. They have been so far and have won victories despite that

One of the four key people involved in the Taylor Review is Greg Marsh, an investor in Deliveroo.

The company’s CEO Will Shu said, “It’s only right that [riders] are given the security they deserve whilst keeping the flexibility that they value.”

But his workers have struck against just that. “Flexibility” can mean workers receive effectively less than the minimum wage at slow times.

A central part of the business model of firms such as Uber is enticing drivers in with big money promises, saturating the market, and then rapidly dropping pay.

Some people may need a job without fixed hours. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have protection when they’re sick. Nor does it mean that they should be punished for having children and denied maternity or paternity pay.

Chair of conciliation service Acas and former TUC leader Sir Brendan Barber prostrated himself before the employers.

“Clear and accessible guidance that allows people to make an informed choice before entering into these types of working arrangements would greatly help the situation,” he said.

“The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance,” reads the review.

So workers are on their own in the fight for better rights. They have been so far and have won victories despite that.

One medical courier firm, The Doctors Laboratory, has conceded that its workers aren’t self-employed and have changed them to worker status. Deliveroo announced last week that it would start paying sick pay to workers.

Workers, no matter their status, should be guaranteed a minimum hourly wage. But the fight should not stop at the bare minimum to survive. Workers need to fight for better pay and conditions, a real living wage, reasonable workloads and to be treated with respect.

The political and legal campaign is getting results but there is a lot more to win. We need to keep up the pressure.

Workers shouldn’t rely on the review’s recommendations being taken up by the Tories, inadequate as they are. To win real security at work and decent pay and conditions will take organisation and struggle.

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