Taylor review of the gig economy: What is it? Why does it matter? What's Uber got to do with it? Everything you need to know about the report on employment practices

 
Lynsey Barber
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Uber and Deliveroo have spurred the review of modern work (Source: Getty)

You can't go more than a few steps without spotting one of Uber's Prius' or a Deliveroo driver whizzing past you these days.

With new technologies brings new ways of working, something that is increasingly under scrutiny, with some arguing workers are being exploited, but others saying it gives people more flexibility.

Here's the lowdown on what's going on, what you need to know about the gig economy and the Taylor review of modern employment due to be published on Tuesday morning.

Read more: Major review stops short of sweeping regulation of gig economy

So, what is the Taylor review?

Matthew Taylor, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair and the chief executive of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) was appointed by the Prime Minister Theresa May to investigate this new world of work where the "gig economy", self-employment and freelancing are increasingly common.

He was asked to make recommendations in terms of any changes that need to be made to employment regulations and Taylor embarked on a "roadshow" across the country, consulting with industry.

These are expected to hone in on the current classification of employment: worker, employee and self-employed/contractor.

Why is it taking place, how did we get here?

The row over workers rights reached a nadir late last year after Uber drivers succeeded in their claim at an employment tribunal that they should be considered workers and not self-employed. Though that decision is being appealed by the startup, the landmark claim made way for a further decision in the cases of a Pimlico Plumber worker and legal action in the same vein by Deliveroo drivers and couriers.

MPs have also piled on the pressure over the matter.

Work and Pensions Select Committee chair Frank Field has not held back in his feelings, accusing Uber of treating drivers like "sweated labour" and the group concluded that companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon are using “bogus” self-employment practices to “free-ride” on the welfare state.

And the department of transport has signalled it will look further at workers rights specifically in the minicab industry separately to this wider review.

The review fits into May's political platform of supporting workers. In the Conservative Party manifesto ahead of the General Election, the PM said it had "always been the true party of those workers" moving to a more centrist ground.

Who is involved and what does it mean for them?

It's estimated more than one million people are working in the gig economy in the UK, equivalent to the number that work in the NHS.

The research from the RSA and Ipsos Mori found the majority are in professional, administrative or creative services, while a third provide a skilled or personal service and 16 per cent are driving or delivering.

Taylor's proposals are designed to offer these people greater benefits and security in their work, though some may see it as restricting the flexibility that comes with such work.

Uber, and later Deliveroo, are the most high profile companies associated with the review and any changes implemented by the government could have the potential to change their business model.

Both tech firms argue drivers enjoy the flexibility of the work and that they are creating jobs.

Uber announced in April it will offer more benefits to drivers with insurance for illness and injury in a partnership with the Association of Independent Professionals & the Self-Employed (IPSE), making some concession to unhappy drivers who have spoken out. And Deliveroo argued just last week that offering more benefits puts riders' flexibility at risk and called for a new category of worker that offers the best of both worlds.

But, it is also likely to have a broader impact on those currently considered "workers" across industries and the businesses they work with. How much will depend on the detail of the report and whether its proposals are taken on by the government.

And the review will also work at changing working practices in established industries such as retail and services where zero-hour contracts have become the norm for many staff.

What do we expect from the report?

It has been suggested there will be several proposed changes coming from the report. They include a new dependent contractor status and warning as to whether they will receive the minimum wage before they accept the work.

This raises several questions such as if and how the new status will differ from the existing "worker" one. These will be revealed in the all important detail accompanying the reports publication on Tuesday.

Other recommendations are expected to include:

  • Closing legal loophole that allows temporary staff from agencies to be paid less than direct employees doing the same jobs, the FT reports.
  • Ending cash-in-hand payments to tackle tax avoidance, the BBC reports.
  • Shaking up the employment tribunal system, the Telegraph reports.

Any steps suggested will have to get the balance right between that flexibility - which many say they enjoy - and the security of things such as minimum wage and sick pay. The cost to business and the public purse must also be taken into consideration.

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