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New rights for gig economy workers

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Firms which cancel casual workers’ shifts at short notice will have to pay them, under proposed government reforms.

Flexible workers will also be given reasonable notice of their allocated shifts and will no longer be penalised for not accepting last minute shifts.

The proposals are part of the government’s Good Work Plan which aims to give flexible workers more protection and control over their working lives.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Innovative entrepreneurs and new business models have opened up a whole new world of working patterns and opportunities, providing people with freedom to decide when and where they work that best suits them.

“It’s vital that workers’ rights keep pace with these changes, reflect the modern working environment and tackle the small number of firms that do not treat their staff fairly.

“We are the first country in the world to address modern working practices and these protections will cement the UK’s status as a world-leader in workers’ rights.”

Zero hours contracts are often used in service industries such as couriers, hospitality and retail. In theory, flexible working allows people to fit their work around their personal lives, including caring responsibilities and studies. However, in many cases the flexibility is one-sided and heavily weighted in favour of the employer.

According to government figures, nearly 40 per cent of gig workers say their hours can vary from week-to-week, with approximately 1.7 million people feeling anxious that their working hours could change unexpectedly.

Bryan Sanderson, Low Pay Commission chair, said: “We are delighted to see the government taking forward our recommendation to consult on these measures. Last year we looked at the data on one-sided flexibility and talked to workers and businesses across the UK. Our report, published in December, found that shift cancellations and short notice of work schedules were significant problems, especially for low-paid workers.

“The proposed changes, part of a package of policies we suggested, have the potential to improve work and life for hundreds of thousands of people.”