In November 2016, four couriers for CitySprint began their case in the Employment Tribunal alleging they should be considered workers and not self-employed contractors.
Coming in the wake of October’s Uber judgement in which the Employment Tribunal found that Uber drivers were workers, the case represents growing scrutiny on whether the way we work is fundamentally changing.
Organisations such as CitySprint, Uber, and Deliveroo point to the high level of flexibility that self-employment offers individuals in comparison to the traditional employee model. Conversely, those involved in bringing these types of claim argue that, whatever a label in a contract may say, they should be recognised as ‘workers’ and receive the benefits and protections more typical of conventional jobs.
Worker status lies halfway between employees (who enjoy the greatest level of protection) and self-employed individuals (who have little legislative protection and whose terms are set by their contracts). Worker status does not give full employee rights, but does give individuals the right to paid holiday, to be paid at least the national minimum wage, and (potentially) to receive statutory sick pay. Some may also have a right to pension contributions in accordance with the auto-enrolment rules.
The government is closely following these changes to working practices and has commissioned Matthew Taylor, chief executive at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, to review how employment practices need to change in light of these. The review will also cover the tax treatment of different types of engagement, driven by a concern that new business models may be leading to lower tax receipts, particularly of employer national insurance.
The Office of Tax Simplification also published a focus paper on 2 December 2016 on the tax issues and implications arising from the gig economy. It is clear that this is an area of difficulty and complexity that will need to be addressed in the near future.
Anna Humphrey is senior associate in the tax and incentives group at international law firm Taylor Wessing, and Anna McCaffrey is senior associate in the employment, pensions and mobility group at Taylor Wessing.