10 downing street door

Theresa May bids to protect self-employed and temporary workers

7 October 2016

Theresa May had a busy time at the Conservative party conference last week, and hidden among some of the bigger policy announcements relating to Brexit and education reforms was some rare good news for people in ‘non-traditional’ employment.

May will soon launch a new comprehensive review of workers’ rights, which could pave the way for higher pay and more legal protection for millions of self-employed people and temporary workers in Britain.

The review will cover the working lives of an estimated six million Brits, including: 

  • 4.8 million people in self-employment
  • 1.7 million people in temporary work
  • 900,000 people on zero-hour contracts

As part of her bid to reclaim the centre-ground of British politics, May has recruited a former Blairite policy chief in Matthew Taylor, who will head up the inquiry. Writing in the Guardian, Taylor explained the need to keep up with the fast-changing world of work.

He said: “Around one in five British workers are in what are, increasingly unhelpfully, described as “non-standard work arrangements”. Few people think these trends will reverse, and many predict that traditional employment will eventually become a minority pursuit.”

These ‘non-standard work arrangements’ include people on zero hour contracts, various categories of self-employed workers and people in temporary work. The review will examine the impact of the growth of these non-traditional means of employment on things like the minimum wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions’ auto-enrolment, sick pay and holiday pay.

The review will also focus on part-time work and the use of ‘self-employed’ staff by companies such as Uber and Deliveroo.

Some recent reports indicate that some multi-national companies like Uber are undermining National Living Wage regulations by wrongly labeling their workers as self-employed.

In addition, high profile investigations into working practices at companies like Sports Direct have again raised the issue of ‘zero-hour’ contracts and other negative employment policies.

May said: “Our regulations work well for the majority, but we will ensure that no-one is left behind. – welcomed by people in non-traditional employment. They often feel like they are being left behind when government announces new protections for employed people – increases in the minimum wage etc – doesn’t often have a bearing on self-employed workers.

“Improving the pay, security and rights of ordinary working people is a key part of building a country and an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

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