The government has once again been called upon to provide an updated legal definition of self-employment in order to prevent companies from taking advantage of the current system to exploit workers.
Citizens Advice has become the latest organisation recommending that self-employment be defined in law to prevent employers from using false forms of self-employment to restrict people’s rights, including access to the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay.
Currently, half of people on zero hours contracts and two in five people on temporary contracts wrongly believe they are not entitled to paid holidays, due in part to confusion surrounding the circumstances in which workers are allowed to be classified as self-employed.
In some cases, this is simply due to bosses being ignorant of employment law, but in a handful of instances, it can be attributed to company owners deliberately flouting the law and taking advantage of the current grey area.
At present, one-third of employers using fixed-term workers, while half make use of temporary workers and 57 per cent rely on variable or shift-based work. Given the prevalence of these forms of work, it is important that lawmakers bring clarity over the legal rights of those working this way.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “With more than half of employers having staff working shifts or variable hours, action needs to be taken now to protect workers rights.
“There’s been welcome attention from political parties on issues surrounding rights at work, and we hope that the next government takes steps to make people’s jobs and income more secure.”
The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed has recommended that the official definition for self-employment should ensure that freelancers and contractors have autonomy over their workload and working arrangements, as well as taking responsibility for managing their own business risks and maintaining independence from clients.