Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Follow California’s blueprint to abolish exploitation in the UK’s gig economy

18 May 2018

The recent fate of Deliveroo riders redoubles the need for legislative reform to extend a layer of protection to workers who are being exploited at the bottom of the labour market (Gig economy union seeks to crowdfund fight against delivery firm, 17 May).

The existing law enables companies to exploit their workers by claiming they are self-employed. These claims are all too often justified by the dubious assumption that individual workers operate as independent businesses because they are free to allocate a substitute to do work for them. This really is absurd. Workers at some companies are made to provide a substitute if they require time off and are then threatened with a penalty or loss of work. Some self-employment.

As a consequence of this flawed legal framework, which fails to account for the key strands of the employment relationship at each company, 700,000 workers in the gig economy earn less than the national living wage. The only way for those workers to challenge their bogus self-employment, and gain the national living wage, is to fight costly and lengthy legal battles.

The major reform for which I am advocating, in response to the government’s extended search for ideas around new employment legislation, follows the California supreme court blueprint: reversing the burden of proof so that workers are protected by default, and companies must clear three tests to demonstrate the existence of genuine self-employment. Those tests emphasise the element of control being exercised over workers, the nature of the work undertaken, and whether the worker operates freely as an independent business.

Herein lies the route to abolishing exploitation and poverty pay in the gig economy and beyond.

Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead


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