'Define self-employment in wake of Hermes, Deliveroo'

Two employment status cases each affecting the ‘gig economy’ should send a single message to the government -- write into law a positive definition of self-employment, says IPSE.

The contractor trade body says such clarity on who does and does not work for themselves would have headed off the first case, against Hermes, and the second, against Deliveroo.

A statutory definition would also provide peace of mind to the self-employed (– drivers for both companies were labelled as contractors), and those who want to engage them.

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) added that the definition of self-employment should consider four key tenets.

First, having autonomy in the work; second, having control over the working arrangements; third, incurring business risk and fourth, the level of independence from clients.

In the Hermes case, couriers were found to be playing an integral part in the firm’s success; they were tracked; mandated to set hours/deliveries, and pay was controlled by Hermes.

In the Deliveroo case, drivers were told when they could and could not work; were monitored; subject to disciplinary procedures and were disallowed the right to substitution.

Following the conclusion of both cases (Deliveroo settled before the tribunal; Hermes is likely to appeal the tribunal’s verdict), IPSE’s Simon McVicker said the same thing.

Specifically, that it is “unacceptable that policymakers are relying on costly, time-consuming court cases as the first port of call in determining employment status.”

IPSE’s recommendation – for self-employment to be defined in law – would prevent companies from “universally declaring” those they engage are ‘contractors,’ when they are actually ‘workers’ (as in the Hermes case) or ‘employees.’

“[We have] long asserted that there is a fundamental lack of clarity about what does and doesn’t constitute self-employment,” said the association.

“Disappointingly, the government doesn’t appear to support this idea, but [these cases, which come] just days after Pimlico Plumbers were defeated in the Supreme Court – demonstrates just how beneficial a positive definition would be.”

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