The headline grabbing recommendation of the Taylor Report is the introduction of a 'new' category of "dependent contractor", in place of "worker" status. This intends to capture casual working relationships and to provide those individuals (i.e. such as those working in the gig economy) with basic protections including sick pay and holiday pay.
It's worth remembering that other recent Government proposals to make the headlines, such as worker representatives on boards, have ultimately ended up being discarded – it is very possible that dependent contractors will end up the same way.
Our key concerns with this particular proposal include:
• It is nothing more than a relabelling exercise and the use of new terminology may only confuse individuals about what rights they actually have;
• The report merely tweaks the current employment status tests – there has been a missed opportunity for a complete overhaul of the tests to ensure they reflect 21st century business models, for example, by introducing an entirely new category of gig economy worker;
• Whilst the report recognises there is a need to differentiate between the genuinely self-employed and dependent contractors and recommends the creation of a clearer test in legislation, it fails to provide the clarity that businesses need in what is already a complicated area;
• The onus is firmly on the Government to provide the clarity needed through legislation and furnish businesses with a framework to properly assess employment status – given the current focus on Brexit negotiations, we would be surprised if the Government finds the time and resource to pass such new legislation;
• The worker status test derives from EU legislation – it would therefore be difficult to make any changes to the test set out in UK legislation whilst we remain part of the European Union.
Following publication of the report, the Government has said that it will respond "later in the year" but there was a clear lack of commitment given yesterday to turn any of the proposals made into legislation – this only confirms our suspicion that the concept of dependent contractors will ultimately end up on the rubbish heap.
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