Sorting out employment law in the UK is something I’ve been calling on for years.
I have been calling for it especially after a plumber who signed a self-employed contract with my company, took all the financial benefits of that status, but then convinced a court he was a worker and therefore entitled more money and employment rights too.
Today the Government has announced plans to change the law to make things fairer and drag the outdated law into the 21st century.
However, what these changes don’t do is protect good employers, who use self-employed contractors in an honest and ethical way.
I paid the man who sued me more than £500,000 in one three-year period, and he was still able to convince a court that I was in the wrong and owed him more.
This is a huge disappointment for thousands of companies, particularly in the building industry, who use self-employed contractors in a responsible way, paying them high rates that provide flexibility and reflect their independent status.
What seems to have happened here is that the Government has treated us as if we’re all Uber or Deliveroo, paying low wages, sometimes below the minimum wage, and also not offering good working conditions and rights.
I’m all for the Government finding changes in the law to protect the poorly paid, poorly treated and poorly appreciated workers – but there’s still no clarity on how these changes will benefit, impact or even relate to the highly-skilled self-employed contractors in industries such as mine, under these supposed landmark changes.
The Taylor Review focused largely on how to protect low-skilled workers from exploitation, but the building industry, with its highly skilled workforce, who are able to demand (and receive) much higher rates as contractors, is an example of a much fairer market, where both sides have bargaining power.
Taylor himself understood the differences between different classes of Gig-Economy contractor and came up with the term ‘dependent contractor’ to describe low-skilled workers, who are at greater risk from exploitation in the labour market.
Skilled trades people, unlike cab drivers and couriers for example, are not dependent at all, even if they are contracting solely to one company, as they can easily take their skills elsewhere, should they feel they are not getting a fair deal.
What the Government, and the law, needs to understand is there is a legitimate class of self-employed contractor, who may work predominantly for one employer, they may even wear a uniform, carry an ID badge, but they are more of a contractor than a worker.
And as such companies who are paying these types of self-employed contractors, in exactly the same way as contractors who may work for 10 different companies, should not have to provide all the benefits owed to PAYE workers.