PM backs plans to overhaul workers’ rights to reflect gig ecomomy

Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair who was appointed by the prime minister to lead the review into the gig economy, said he would be recommending changes to the rights of self-employed workers when his review was published in June.

Taylor said his review would highlight the blurring of boundaries between people who are self-employed and therefore get few employment rights and people who are classified as employees, eligible for full rights.

“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.

The question has led to a number of high-profile court cases in recent months. In October, Uber lost a landmark employment tribunal case brought by drivers, who said the stringent conditions placed on their work by the taxi hailing app company meant they were not self-employed, but employees who were entitled to minimum wage and sick pay.

Taylor said he defined the boundary as a “question of control” that companies have over workers. “If you want to control your workers, you will have to respect their rights and provide entitlements, too, but if you really don’t want to control them, that’s fine, then they’ll be self-employed,” he said. “But there look like there are cases at the moment where firms both want control but not to provide those workers with entitlements and rights.”

Taylor said he believed that more industries would soon be faced with workers who were no longer prepared to accept punishing conditions. “In the 21st century, a time when we have so much autonomy and choice and we expect control in our lives, we don’t accept the idea of kind of wage slavery, the idea of people at work having no choice, no voice, no capacity to influence what’s going on around them and I think people feel that doesn’t really fit with the times,” he said.

Automation was one of the biggest challenges for the his review, Taylor admitted. “People want it to be that robots create the possibility for human beings to have fulfilled work, not that we end up serving the machines,” he said.

Taylor’s review has found evidence of companies asking employees to incorporate themselves as sole traders, rather than go on the company payroll, enabling them to avoid benefits such as statutory maternity pay or sick pay, according to the Times.

Taylor expressed some disappointment at the budget U-turn over national insurance contributions, which he said was “a kind of battle between politics and policy” which he said he hoped would not affect the implementation of his review after it was published in the summer.

“I kind of hoped the policy would win this time because it was essential policy, but in the end the politics won and I think that the fact that the Conservatives have made a manifesto pledge about taxes have made it an unsustainable policy, and I do hope the lesson that is learned from this,” he said.

Though government sources told the Times they expected May to put her full weight behind Taylor’s recommendations, the review’s chair said that although the prime minister had been “supportive so far”, he was realistic about what might happen in future political battles. “[What] I have to do is produce the best recommendations I can – in the end it’s up to government to decide what they can implement and that puts us back in the domain of politics,” he said.