Many companies operating gig economy hiring models may be guilty of using self-employment as a means of depriving workers of their proper rights, according to a new report from MPs.
The Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee has published contracts it has received from Uber, Hermes, Deliveroo and Amazon as part of its inquiry into self-employment and the gig economy, revealing that these companies are designating their workers as self-employed to avoid providing them with full employment rights.
Uber’s contract was criticised as being “unintelligible”, while Deliveroo’s explicitly requires its couriers to agree they are not workers, and that they will not challenge their self-employed status in court. Uber and Amazon were also found to be imposing functionally similar clauses.
It shows that many companies are trying to use the gig economy model to put people off challenging their status and trying to obtain employment rights that may be due to them, even though the working arrangements under which they operate are functionally identical to those of full-time workers.
Frank Field, chair of the committee, said: “These companies parade the”‘flexibility” their model offers to drivers, but it seems the only real flexibility is enjoyed by the companies themselves. It does seem a marvellous business model if you can get away with it.”
Cases such as these are indicative of why the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) recently called for the government to introduce a new statutory definition of self-employment, in order to bring an end to the current confusion and limit the risk of worker exploitation.
It suggested that the definition should be based around four key criteria, including whether or not the worker has autonomy in their work, control over working arrangements, personal responsibility for business risks and a degree of independence from clients.