February 7, 2018 / 12:48 AM / 18 days ago

UK to consult on employment status after gig economy concerns

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is to launch a consultation into workplace rights in the face of public and political concern that some in the “gig economy” are being exploited.

Ministers said millions of people will be able to seek a more stable contract, have holiday and sick pay enforced, receive a list of their rights and be given a payslip.

But unions said the plans did not go far enough and accused the government of further delaying a decision on the thorny topic of whether those working for firms such as Uber and food courier Deliveroo deserve more rights.

Many in the gig economy, where people tend to work for multiple firms without fixed contracts, operate on a self-employed basis, entitling them to only basic protections such as health and safety.

Workers in Britain receive the minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks and employees are also guaranteed rights such as maternity leave and sick pay.

Firms such as Uber have called for greater clarity in the law but say their average drivers already earn more than the minimum wage and that they enjoy the flexibility of work.

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist delivers food for Deliveroo in London, Britain, September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Unions say those practices are exploitative and have taken court action, winning a high-profile case over workers’ rights against Uber in 2016 which the taxi app is appealing.

Prime Minister Theresa May is keen to show she is tackling problems faced particularly by younger Britons, who deprived her ruling Conservatives of a majority in a snap election last year by overwhelmingly backing the left-wing Labour Party.

FILE PHOTO: An UberEATS food delivery courier stands in front of his bike in London, Britain September 7, 2016. Picture taken September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

As part of the consultation, which is due to close in May, the government will consider whether new legislation is needed to make it easier to differentiate between employment categories, affecting rights and tax obligations.

It comes after a review by the Chief Executive of The Royal Society of Arts Matthew Taylor said last year that many Britons working for firms in the gig economy deserved more entitlements.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which is part of legal action over workers’ rights against Uber, said Wednesday’s government response to the review did not go far enough.

“More than anything else, it is an exercise in kicking the problem into the long grass,” said General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee.

“What we needed to see was a serious extension of rights to workers and a serious proposal on government enforcement of employment law, not just a consultation on the topic.”

Editing by Stephen Addison

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