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Published on 16 December 2016

Future world of work and rights of workers

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has launched an inquiry into the future world of work, focussing on the rapidly changing nature of work, and the status and rights of agency workers, the self-employed, and those working in the 'gig economy'. Gaps in information generally available to 'workers' and in provision for protection of their rights, make their lives extremely difficult. In our submission, we explain some of the gaps in detail and highlight some associated problems which we hope will be useful to the inquiry. 

These can be summarised as follows:

  • ‘Workers’ are often not aware of their employment status and therefore what employment rights they are entitled to.
  • This is unsurprising, given the poor standard of official information and guidance on GOV.UK, some specific examples of which we give.
  • There is a lack of transparency in the system for what we might term ‘dependent’ self-employed persons.
  • Confusion around ‘worker’ status helps explain some arguably exploitative practices – umbrella companies marketing employee rights to agency workers, for example.
  • Even if they can be sure of their rights, workers often have no practical way of securing them and we question the effectiveness of the enforcement bodies in terms of their ability to help protect ‘workers’.
  • There are ongoing issues with zero hours contracts despite the banning of exclusivity clauses.
  • Someone’s ‘status’ is not universal, even when you compare the self-employment rules for tax, tax credits and universal credit.

While we think that reversing the flexible working trend is probably the only real way of bringing about sustainable improvements for workers, we strongly suggest some practical steps that could be taken in the current framework to address these issues and help improve the position of ‘workers’ in the short term. These are highlighted in bold throughout the response. The inquiry can be found here.

Meredith McCammond

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