Gig economy firms including CitySprint and Uber face a parliamentary inquiry following claims that they have continued to deny workers employment rights.
Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee, is leading the investigation. A string of recent tribunal rulings against the likes of Uber, eCourier and CitySprint said that couriers and taxi drivers should be treated as workers. This would grant them entitlements such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. But these companies have failed to meet their legal requirements and recognise their workers’ rights.
Is justice being evaded?
“The inquiry will, I hope, shine a bright light on the extent to which justice is being evaded in the gig economy,” Field said. “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.”
The news comes as Uber continues to fight a 2016 tribunal ruling. This ruling said its drivers were in fact workers and not self employed. The company insists that most of its drivers wanted to retain the flexibility to choose their own hours. However, the firm continues to face criticism over conditions. This week, couriers working for its Uber Eats takeaway delivery service protested outside the company’s London head office over a change in pay structure.
CitySprint, meanwhile, defends its actions. It says it enjoys a good relationship with couriers who contract with them, but will welcome clearer guidelines.
“Recent cases have shown there is still widespread confusion in this area of the law,” a spokesperson said. “We await the results of the four government consultations launched in response to the recent Taylor Review and welcome further initiatives to help bring more clarity in this area.”
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And eCourier, a subsidiary of Royal Mail, said it took measures to give certain workers employment rights.
“We did carry out a review of our fleet of drivers and identified a group who we felt could be ‘workers’,” chief executive Ian Oliver said. “Accordingly, we changed their contracts to provide benefits such as holiday pay. They were also offered a workplace pension.”
More to be done
But the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain believes not enough is being done.
“For a couple of years now we have been winning tribunal claims against courier and private hire companies,” Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the union, said. “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.”
Field will gather evidence from workers, legal experts, trade unions and companies as part of his investigation. He aims to publish his findings alongside a series of recommendations before Christmas.