Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Inquiry launched into the ‘evasion of justice’ in the gig economy


27 September 2018
Food bank

Frank Field MP today launches a major inquiry into the extent and consequences of ‘employment law evasion’ in the gig economy.

The past two years have produced a series of employment tribunals, settlements, and high-profile campaigns which have forced companies to admit wrongdoing and review the pay and conditions offered to their workforce. In particular, a growing number of companies has been required to recognise staff as ‘workers’ who are entitled to basic forms of statutory protection – including a guaranteed hourly minimum wage and holiday pay – rather than ‘independent contractors’ with no such protection.

However, it appears that some of these companies have not met their legal requirements or honoured their commitments to recognise workers’ rights, but have rather continued to exploit those who have been wrongly classed as independent contractors. 

Frank and his colleague Andrew Forsey will therefore be gathering evidence from individual workers, legal experts, enforcement specialists, trade unions, and companies, with a view to publishing their findings alongside a series of recommendations before Christmas. The Government’s Director of Labour Market Enforcement, Sir David Metcalf, will also be invited to contribute to the inquiry.

Frank comments: ‘The list of companies in the gig economy caught exploiting their workers is growing. Those companies have had it made abundantly clear to them that enough is enough and they need to start respecting the law. A main aim of this inquiry is to find out whether they have then done so, or whether instead they have chosen to stick two fingers up at their workers and the legal system by coming up with another wheeze that gets them off the hook.

‘The inquiry will, I hope, shine a bright light on the extent to which justice is being evaded in the gig economy. Although I very much hope we will also be able to recognise examples in which companies have managed successfully to honour their obligations. Likewise, we will be looking to suggest any immediate changes that are required, both to the law itself as well as its enforcement, to ensure no company is able to evade justice.’

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, General Secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) adds: ‘For a couple of years now we have been winning tribunal claims against courier and private hire companies. Yet despite this somehow these workers are still not getting the rights they're entitled to. The enforcement system is clearly broken and this inquiry will shine a welcome spotlight on its abject failure.’

Among the examples that will be studied are the outcomes of the settlements reached between (IWGB) members and eCourier, as well as the employment tribunals between IWGB members and CitySprint and Uber.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are as follows:

1.       How frequently do companies in the gig economy reach a settlement with workers seeking to bring a claim against them in an employment tribunal?
2.       How frequently do companies in the gig economy have claims brought against them in an employment tribunal, and challenge them unsuccessfully?
3.       What have been the consequences of these settlements and employment tribunals for the pay and conditions of individual workers, as well as the workforce as a whole who are employed on similar terms at each company?
4.       What examples are there of companies applying the findings from settled claims, or the verdict reached in an employment tribunal, in full to the whole of their workforce who are employed on similar terms?
5.       What examples are there of companies failing to apply the findings from settled claims, or the verdict reached in an employment tribunal, in full to the whole of their workforce who are employed on similar terms?
6.       What particular moves, if any, are taken by companies in the gig economy to counteract, delay, or evade this system of justice, and what steps are required to prevent this from happening?
7.       What reforms, if any, are required to employment law, as well as its enforcement, to ensure all workers in the gig economy receive their full legal entitlement to basic forms of statutory protection?

Written submissions can be submitted, before Wednesday 14th November 2018, to andrew.forsey@parliament.uk




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