Government too slow to protect low-paid workers, say MPs

The Guardian - 18 Apr 2018

The government is under fire from MPs for being too slow to act to protect low-paid workers from exploitation.

The chairs of the work and pensions select committee and the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee called on the government to urgently bring forward laws to protect workers.

The comments come after the government said on Wednesday that further consultation was required before introducing new rules such as a guaranteed premium to the legal minimum wage for zero-hours workers or mandatory written employment status statements.

The government was responding to a report by the select committees published in November, which included draft legislation intended to close the loopholes that allow irresponsible companies to underpay workers.

That followed the government-backed Matthew Taylor review into gig economy working, which also suggested changes to employment law, including clarification of what it means to be self-employed.

A number of businesses, including Uber and Deliveroo, face legal action from drivers and couriers who say they are not independent contractors, as the companies claim, and so should be entitled to holiday pay and other benefits.

Rachel Reeves, Labour MP and chair of the BEIS committee, said: “People in the everyday economy, from delivery drivers and warehouse workers to carers and retail staff, too often find themselves subject to levels of control and injustice from businesses who reap the benefits of this ultra-flexible business model without taking proper responsibility as employers.

“The government’s response to our committees’ work and the Taylor review is far too slow and ministers need to turn words into action and bring forward legislation urgently to make these changes, or throw their support behind the draft bill that our committees have proposed.”

The MPs’ draft bill aimed to clarify the definitions of employment status and enshrine the presumption that those working for companies over a certain size are all classed as workers, with rights to the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Frank Field, Labour MP and chair of the pensions committee, said the government should introduce a short bill in which it guaranteed workers basic rights and paved the way for further legislation on more complex matters in future.

“It is disappointing that the government hasn’t picked up our bill and run with it,” he added.

Sarah Butler, The Guardian