Gig economy

How the Tories can redeem themselves in the eyes of the self-employed

Private members’ bills don’t normally make for exciting reading. They give MPs and peers a chance to let off steam if they have a bee in their bonnet, and more importantly to lay down fairly cheap political markers. Most sink without trace, since the government through its control of the Commons legislative timetable has an effective veto. But some are worth a second look. One such is Lord Hendy’s Status of Workers Bill, which got its second reading in the Lords last Friday. Currently, businesses love the idea of designating as much of their payroll as possible as self-employed independent contractors rather than employees. And not surprisingly: it saves them

Is this the end of the gig economy?

Before too long, news that Uber will offer 70,000 drivers holiday pay and the national living wage will be viewed less as an unmitigated triumph than a Pyrrhic victory. In the UK you can be an ’employee’ with an ever-growing raft of employment rights, a ‘worker’ with rather fewer rights, or ‘self-employed’. These statuses have different implications for tax purposes. Last month, the UK Supreme Court, ending a six-year case brought by two Uber drivers, ruling that the ride-hailing firm must classify drivers as workers rather than self-employed. This week, the consequences of that judgment begin to be felt — though it is the government’s fault that, in repeatedly failing