Much has been written in recent times about the 'gig economy' and, in particular, the status of those working within it. A government report in 2018 found that roughly 2.8 million people (4.4% of the population of Great Britain) had worked in the gig economy in the preceding 12 months. In broad terms, working in the gig economy means that instead of a regular wage, a worker is paid for the individual job ('gig') that they do. People working in delivery and taxi services in particular are paid in this way.
There have been recent high-profile court cases which have held that people working in such jobs are entitled to 'worker' status. This is important because workers are entitled to certain employment rights including receiving:
- the National Minimum Wage
- the statutory minimum level of paid holiday
- the statutory minimum length of rest breaks
- protection against unlawful discrimination
- protection from whistleblowing
They may also be entitled to statutory payments, such as Statutory Sick Pay.
Workers in the gig economy generally sign agreements with the employer whereby the worker agrees that they are self-employed contractors, and are not be entitled to such benefits. It is clear that the case law is moving towards conferring worker status on many more individuals who formerly would have been considered to be self-employed.
A recent case is interesting because it takes the issue of 'worker' status beyond those in the gig economy. A barrister was appointed as a panel chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). His appointment letter indicated that he was an independent contractor and the NMC was not obliged to offer a minimum number of dates, nor was he obliged to accept them. However, he was obliged to offer the services personally. The barrister brought a claim against the NMC for holiday pay on the basis that he was a 'worker' and his claim was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
It is clear that the status of 'workers' and 'independent contractors' has significance for many organisations. Businesses should take specialist employment advice to ensure that they are meeting their responsibilities to the people whose services they use, even if they only use those services on an intermittent basis.
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