Despite a lack of legislative reform in this area in the UK, employment law remains a “round peg in a square hole” designed for a different age. It remains likely that political change is on the horizon, although perhaps not the immediate horizon.
In 2018, the UK government consulted on reforming employment status rules following Matthew Taylor’s 2017 Good Work Review. The Taylor Review proposed retaining the three-tier approach of employees, workers, and the self-employed but, among other things, re-naming workers as “dependent contractors”. In July 2022 the government finally published its response to that consultation and confirmed it would not take forward any legislative reforms. Instead, it has published new guidance aiming to provide clarity for businesses and workers about how the law in this area works in practice.
Employment law remains ill-suited to the rise in the contingent labour force. The plethora of employment arrangements which have arisen (and the litigation which has ensued) both in the UK and across the globe to meet both “employer” and “worker” demands for flexibility reinforces the need for reform as the gig economy further expands into knowledge work and the growth of second jobs continues.
While significant change under the current government may be unlikely, it is notable that the other main political parties propose change. Labour proposes to introduce the same “day 1” rights for everyone (employees and workers) and to redefine employment status so it catches everyone working in the gig economy, whereas the Liberal Democrats propose an approach very similar to that advocated in the Taylor Review.