Earlier this month, the Prime Minister commissioned an inquiry into growing modern working practices to see whether long-standing practices need to change.

Never before has there been such an intense focus on non-standard work and what it means for employment rights.

More and more workers take on short-term roles from different employers in a so-called ‘gig economy’.

But advocates of this way of working include Sports Direct, Deliveroo, Uber and Hermes, all firms on the receiving end of recent criticism for the working conditions they impose on their ‘self-employed’ staff.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, will conduct the inquiry, and the press release states the inquiry will cover:

Security, pay and rights

  • To what extent do emerging business practices put pressure on the trade-off between flexible labour and benefits such as higher pay or greater work availability, so that workers lose out on all dimensions?
  • To what extent does the growth in non-standard forms of employment undermine the reach of policies like the national living wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions auto-enrolment, sick pay, and holiday pay?

Progression and training

  • How can we facilitate and encourage professional development within the modern economy to the benefit of both employers and employees?
  • The balance of rights and responsibilities for new business models
  • Do current definitions of employment status need to be updated to reflect new forms of working created by emerging business models, such as on-demand platforms?

Representation

  • Could we learn lessons from alternative forms of representation around the world, for example the Freelancers Union in New York, which focuses on access to health insurance, or the California App-based Drivers Association (CADA), which lobbies companies like Uber on behalf of drivers?

Under-represented groups

  • How can we harness modern employment to create opportunities for groups currently underrepresented in the labour market (the elderly, those with disabilities or care responsibilities)?

New business models

  • How can government – nationally or locally – support a diverse ecology of business models enhancing the choices available to investors, consumers and workers?

The overall aim

Mr. Taylor says, “Around 6 million people are not covered by the standard suite of workplace rights.

“Worryingly, that number continues to grow, and it shows how rapidly changing business models and working practices are continually stretching the limits of our employment rules.

“This is not to say that we need to rip up existing models; current employment rules do work for the majority of people… the question isn’t how we reduce flexibility, but how we can make it work for more people.”

Need advice on modern working practices? Please call the Peninsula 24-hour advice line today.