Matthew Taylor, the author of the Taylor Review on the gig economy, cautioned MPs against sudden changes to on-demand working.
Taylor was commissioned by Theresa May to investigate the working conditions of the gig economy. In the highly anticipated report, Taylor recommended that gig economy workers to be classified as “dependent contractors”.
The new framework is to cater for the casual nature of gig economy work. These dependent contractors would not be employees, but they wouldn’t be genuinely self-employed, either. The new category would be entitled to a more limited set of workers’ rights, including the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay. Taylor’s recommendations would necessitate creating a brand new dependent contractor status test.
The key is to find the best way to instantiate these ideas without alienating workers and consumers. Suddenly introducing the National Minimum Wage for gig economy workers would effectively wipe out the sector, Taylor warned.
The solution is not to wipe out a popular commercial and lifestyle option, instead advocate for a “nudge” approach to gradually ameliorate the on-demand sector’s negative traits.
Taylor explained that his circumspection was motivated by two factors. First is the wild popularity of these services among consumers. Transport for London, for instance, weathered an onslaught from irate Londoners when it recently banned Uber from operating within the City.
Secondly, flexible working was popular among many workers. A move to a formal shift system would not suit many on-demand workers. “If Uber drivers, Deliveroo couriers, on-demand workers, are classified as workers and get the minimum wage, we will probably have to end on-demand work,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s ideas meet some resistance from MPs. Rachel Reeves, chair of the BEIS committee, called the dependent contractor designation a “slippery slope” and said the plan would be a regulatory nightmare. Meanwhile, the work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said the government was not prepared to consider exceptions to the national minimum wage legislation.