What is the Government doing about the Gig Economy?

What is the Government doing about the Gig Economy?


With great fanfare earlier this month, the Government published its proposals about how to deal with employment rights for the age of the Gig Economy.  Result?  Further delay and consultation.

This came in the wake of the Taylor Review into modern working practices, published in July 2017, which looked into UK employment laws and how they should change given modern working practices.  This was set up because of various Court cases on Uber drivers, Pimlico Plumbers, Deliveroo Drivers, and the like.

The general direction is that the Courts do not agree with the companies that their “contractors” are genuinely self-employed.  Instead, the Courts believe they have the in-between status of workers, which means they get national minimum wage, holiday pay and potentially auto-enrolment pensions.  It is a big deal for a significant chunk of the economy.

The Taylor review set out around 30 practical proposals to help clarify the distinction between self-employed, worker and employed and on a number of other still important but less critical areas. You can read the full document here.

However, rather than put forward concrete legislative proposals, all the Government has done is to ask for more consultation on the most important areas of the Taylor recommendations.  In other words, it has not done any of the hard work of thinking for itself what should be done, and instead has done what all Governments do when they do not want to take a decision: send it out for long term consultation.   You can read all about the Government’s response: here

That said, the Government has pledged to tighten up on a number of other issues, such as protecting unpaid interns and enforcing vulnerable workers’ holiday and sick pay for the first time (amongst other measures).

A long wait ahead for clarity on Gig Economy Employment Rights

However, the big picture is that we could wait a long time before anything major comes out of the Government on the main issue of our day – worker status in the Gig Economy.

Instead, the main thrust of change will come from the judges and not politicians: the Supreme Court decision on Pimlico Plumbers is due out soon, and the Court of Appeal decision on Uber is due out later this year.

In my view, it should be elected politicians making this decision, not judges.  Perhaps Parliament has something else on its mind these days?

If you are not sure of your status or as a business how best to structure employment, contact us today

© Ben Thornber, Thornber HR Law

Gender Pay Gap – Do you want others to know how much you earn?

Gender Pay Gap – Do you want others to know how much do you earn?

2018 has started with a bang when it comes to the gender pay gap issue.

News headlines abound everywhere.  Firstly, at the BBC with Carrie Gracie resigning over pay equality with colleagues, and John Humphries taking a `voluntary’ massive pay cut from between £600k – £650k to between £250-£300k.  Over at Easyjet, the new CEO took a “pay cut” to £740,000 to match what the former female CEO was earning.

All this is on the back of the rules last year which meant that all organisations employing more than 250 employees much report on their gender pay gap – which affects of over 9,000 private sector employers.  The deadline is April this year, but many companies have published ahead of schedule, as was widely reported earlier this month: www.bbc.co.uk/news.

Reporting Errors

At first glance, the new focus on transparency would be seeming to be having an effect already – witness what is going on at the BBC.  But we will have to see whether this is the case in the long run and across all organisations.

There is a lot of evidence that the old adage: `What gets measured gets done’ is something of a fallacy.  It may be more accurate to say that `what gets measured often gets gamed’.  How much `gaming’ will companies be doing to make sure their data is not as bad as it looks?  At least some, surely.

For example, Hugo Boss initially reported that it had no pay gap between men and women, but the company was forced to revise its data to show a mean gender pay gap of 33% and a median gender pay gap of 77%.  That’s quite some reporting error.

More women into traditional mens’ roles

No doubt a lot of good may come out of the new reporting requirements.  It may encourage some companies to review whether their recruitment and promotion practices are gender-biased, and whether they have true equal pay for equal work.

But I remain sceptical as to whether the reporting requirements will do anything to encourage more women into traditional `male’ industries such as engineering and IT, or men into primary school teaching or nursing.  And without other measures such as universal free child care, women will continue to have longer career breaks than men.

For what it’s worth, my view is that although the new reporting requirements will have some effect, it will not be revolutionary; real change will only come when there is true transparency of earnings –  at all levels and not just high earners.  If we all knew what our colleagues were being paid, it would force both employer and better paid colleagues alike to justify their pay.

Are you happy for others to know exactly what you earn?

Why I hid my disability from my bosses

Disability and the Workplace

Why I hid my disability from my bosses

I would like to say I came up with this headline.  But the credit goes to a recent article in Management Today.

It is about an uplifting story of Caroline Casey who hid her blindness from her employer (Accenture) but still managed to work as a high-flying global consultant for several years.  Remarkable.

But then, she is obviously a remarkable person: she went on to raise £0.5m to fund 600 six hundred cataract operations with Sightsavers International; set up a not-for-profit disability organisation called Kanch; and has recently launched #valuable, a new global campaign to put disability on the business agenda.

Her campaign is backed by top businesses and calls on 500 big business to commit to tackling disability in the workforce.

You can read the full article here: Management Today.

The underlying key issue here is how many people may not be revealing an illness to their employer?  One can speculate, but I suspect it would be a significant proportion of the working population.

There would be many reasons why this would be.  This could range from, as with Ms Casey, her lack of knowledge about her illness and her initial reluctance to face up to it; to being labelled with a condition that still carries a stigma in society; and being apprehensive about the reaction of the employer.

We can all think of many instances of employees who have not been treated well because they have developed a physical or mental illness.  It may be the business has been reluctant to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate, or else there is a low-level frustration by managers and colleagues that the employee cannot do what they did previously.

Unfortunately, there are also cases where employees take advantage of their illness to make life difficult for the employer, or even (sadly) to line themselves up for a disability discrimination claim without merit.

Number of employees with a disability will increase

One fact is certain, however: the number of working people who have a disability or an illness that impacts on their work is only going to increase.

This is down to a number of factors, such as the working population getting older, increasing levels of depression and stress (or, at least, increasing recognition of these illnesses), more awareness of disability rights.  Perhaps also there are simply more work opportunities for people who have disabilities, whereas previously they would have self-selected themselves out of the workforce.

As important as initiatives such as Ms Casey’s are, it is not just the remit of big business to deal with this.  We are all either managers, colleagues, business owners, parents, relatives or friends, and any one of us will almost certainly be affected at some stage and at some level about disability and illness in the workplace.

Have you challenged your own perceptions of how you would react and deal with it? We advise and assist with Discrimination of all types in the workplace

© Ben Thornber, Thornber HR Law

Do you care about the difference between the lowest and highest paid?

Pay: the vast pay ratio gap

Do you care about the difference between the lowest and highest paid?

(This article was published on ScotlandB2B website on 5 September 2017)

Probably not, if you are in the top 5%. Almost certainly, if you are in the lowest 50%.

The UK along with many other countries has seen a huge increase in the pay ratio gap between top executives and the lowest paid, despite minimum wage legislation. The UKs top executives pocket an average of £5.3m each year – a figure that is 386 times that of a worker earning the National Living Wage (£7.50/hour).

According to the Equality Trust, top executives earn 165 times more than nurses; 140 times more than teachers; 132 times more than police officers, and 312 times more than care workers.

Many think there is no problem with this: it is global market for top talent, they deserve the pay if they add to shareholder value, and most of our tax comes from the top earners anyway. Others think the market is skewed and does not actually reward true added value to business, and in any event such pay disparities are unhealthy for society.

But there is no doubt the issue is becoming more political.

During the last election, Labour said it would commit to introducing a statutory requirement of a pay ratio of 20:1 in the public sector and on all companies bidding for public contracts. You may or may not agree with the principle, but we can all imagine the carnage if this was introduced.

Increased transparency

Perhaps surprisingly for a Conservative Government, earlier this week the Government announced reforms to `increase transparency and build trust between CEOs and their stakeholders’. Under the proposals, all listed companies will be required to publish the pay ratio between bosses and workers. In the same vein, workers will be represented on companies’ boards – via a non-executive director.

One view of these measures is that they pay just enough heed to Theresa May’s agenda on the Just-About-Managing (JAMs), without overly disrupting big business. But whether it would have the result of helping to `build trust between CEOs and their stakeholders’ is debatable.

That said, it is a start. As with the gender pay gap, the starting point must surely be transparency on the figures so that people can start to question the reality. The old adage “what gets measured gets done” has some relevance here; witness the recent furore over the BBC pay figures which will surely result in meaningful action.

I suspect however that requiring the top companies to publish their pay ratios will not have the desired result of reducing pay disparities. There are too many complex and vested interests at play, from opaque governance by Remuneration Committees, to large institutional shareholders who do not see this as a priority.

Many see that the best starting point would be to give shareholders a binding vote on executive pay. This seems to have gone off the agenda however.

In the meantime, the Government can say it is `doing something’. Initially, probably nothing will change, but I suspect this is not the end of the story, particularly in the public sector. Let’s see what happens.  This is the sort of area we can advise on so do contact us

© Ben Thornber, Thornber HR Law