A press release on the gov.uk website yesterday cited that “Millions of flexible workers will receive new rights under major government reforms as the UK becomes one of the first countries to address the challenges of the changing world of work in the modern economy”.
This comes in response to an independent Taylor Review published in July 2017 which investigated what impact modern working practices were having on the world of work. The review concluded that the although there was a degree of flexibility with workers in the UK labour market, a clearer focus was required in relation to quality of work as well as the quantity of jobs.
Quite surprisingly, it appears that the government have acted on all but one of the 53 recommendations put forward in the Taylor review, and all but one of the 11 recommendations put forward by the joint Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee. It has been highlighted that these reforms fall in line with the UK’s Industrial Strategy, which is the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping business create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK.
In some cases, the government plans to go beyond the proposals put forward by the Taylor Review. According to information from the government’s own website, these include enforcing vulnerable workers’ holiday and sick pay rights, and to mirror these provisions for casual and zero-hour workers to ensure more financial stability for these types of workers.
Although these changes seem to be a step in the right direction, in an effort to reform current working practices including the rise in the gig economy and exploitation of workers in such areas, it would seem that they have come too late in the case of Don Lane, a DPD courier, who was fined to attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes, and later died from this very disease.
Don Lane had worked for DPD for 19 years, as a self-employed courier or ‘franchisee’ as known by DPD. He received no sick or holiday pay. If he failed to cover his round, and find alternative cover, he faced a penalty of £150 per day. With this in mind, Mr Lane felt that he was under pressure to cover his rounds, and in doing so missed vital appointments relating to his ongoing health issues, which eventually took his life.
This story reflects the sad reality of the challenges faced by many gig workers on a daily basis, which is an expectation on them to carry out their respective roles with due diligence and care, yet they have to do so without the umbrella of protection afforded by employees in relation to holiday and sick pay, and other rights associated with the employee status.