Frank Field demands action on ‘rampant injustice’ in the gig economy | Business

The government should take action to end the “rampant injustice” facing some workers in the gig economy, according to a report by the independent MP Frank Field.

Field, who is chair of the work and pensions select committee, is calling for a fast-track system for employment tribunals involving worker status cases, as well as the introduction of a single labour market regulator.

The report says there is evidence some companies continue to exploit workers whom they had wrongly classified as independent contractors.

“Unions are caught up in court cases that are going on for seven years. The idea that the law is working is farcical,” Field said.

His report comes after Gary Smith, a heating engineer from Kent, last week lost a bid to claim £74,000 in holiday pay despite spending years to establish he was a “worker” entitled to such benefits in a case against Pimlico Plumbers which ended in the supreme court.

Field said employment tribunals should be given powers to fast-track worker status cases and recommend their findings are applied on a company-wide basis. In a string of recent cases, companies have avoided widespread reform, arguing that tribunal findings relate only to the individuals involved.

“The laws governing work in the gig economy are inadequate,” the report says.

“There is virtually no proactive enforcement mechanism to prevent workers being misclassified as ‘independent contractors’ and subjected to bogus forms of self- employment. The onus currently falls on individual workers to enforce the law.”

“We want to build up a unit that is a ‘people’s friend’ that they can go to and they know they are not going to be passed on to somewhere else which has not got the resources” Field added. “The regulator should be able to keep its fines to pay for itself.”

The government has laid out plans for labour market reform including giving workers a list of immediate rights including holiday and sick pay entitlements. The legislation is passing through parliament and is expected to be introduced next year.

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The government is shortly expected to publish proposals on a single labour market enforcement body, that would bring together work currently carried out by HMRC, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and other bodies.

But MPs and workers rights groups have become frustrated by the pace of action.

In 2017, the work and pensions select committee and the business, energy and industrial strategy committee prepared draft legislation intended to close the loopholes that allow “irresponsible companies to underpay workers”.

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