10 Jul 2017

With the development of inventive business models and the implementation of Brexit on the horizon, the future of the world of work is facing a transformative change.

The Taylor Review, the government-commissioned review of employment practices in the modern economy, has sparked a discourse about employee rights and employer obligations, particularly regarding gig workers and the innovation economy.

International law firm Taylor Vinters has contributed to this discussion, calling on the UK government to clearly define employment statuses to create a solution where workers’ rights and innovative business models are not mutually exclusive. This comes at a critical time: with Brexit negotiations and future uncertainties, there is an urgent need to ensure that the business climate is favourable to entrepreneurs in order to attract and retain innovative companies within the UK.

As a part of their submission to the Taylor Review, Dominic Holmes and Christine Berry, partners at Taylor Vinters, outline a clear dividing line between those workers who choose to provide flexible labour as a lifestyle choice and those for whom there is no alternative.

Dominic says: “Our recommendation caters for new and emerging business models, as well as those that may be introduced in the future. The concepts of ‘employee,’ ‘worker’ and ‘self-employed’ need to be more clearly defined, so the rules of the game are understood by all. The government must give businesses as much flexibility as possible, allowing innovators freedom to contract with individuals on mutually beneficial terms, to make great things happen.”

In particular, the definition of “worker” no longer meets the requirements of the future world of work and needs to be narrowed: in its current form, it is defined as ‘someone that has a contract or other arrangement to do work or services personally for a reward.’

This effectively lumps zero-hours contract workers in to the same category as ex-CEOs who have taken on consultancy work, providing protections to swathes of individuals who actively choose a portfolio career and do not need or seek minimum rights. In turn, this unduly increases the burden on entrepreneurial businesses.

Christine says: “It is counter-intuitive to shackle forward-thinking, tech-enabled businesses and over-regulate individuals who will drive the future UK economy.”

The pair believe the government needs to step back from the heavy-handed regulatory regime of the past two decades with a lighter-touch legislative framework within which businesses – and those working within them – can flourish and thrive.

Recalibrating the concepts of “employee”, “worker” and “independent contractor” will establish clear dividing lines between the different types of employment, separating the potentially vulnerable 30 percent of the workers providing flexible labour because they have no other option from the majority that actively pursue portfolio careers because of the flexibility and independence it offers.

Dominic concluded: “The simplest way I can put it is this: the rights that workers have are absolutely right; the problem is that far too many people are classified as workers. We need to actively nurture the self-employment model where it is genuinely appropriate because it encourages entrepreneurship. The ideal model is where the self-employed build up their business to the point where they are creating work for others and contributing to a buoyant and innovative UK business environment.”

Taylor Vinters’ full submission to the Taylor Review can be viewed here.