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Acas releases gig economy guidance

It comes as legal cases over the status of workers in the gig economy continue to make headlines

Acas has released guidance to help employers better understand the status of gig workers.

Stewart Gee, head of guidance at Acas, said that a heightened focus on the gig economy meant there was a need to issue new guidance on employment status and rights. “We know that people find this a confusing area of the law so we have updated our advice to provide some clarity,” he said.

The guidance includes a larger focus on the self-employed and umbrella companies. It also covers areas such as agency workers, fixed-term workers and zero-hours contracts.

The revised guidance comes as a number of companies find themselves embroiled in legal action around the status of members of the workforce.

In November Uber drivers won the right to be classed as workers rather than self-employed. In January a court ruled that a bike courier working for City Sprint was also a worker, entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage. And earlier this month Pimlico Plumbers lost an appeal on the legal status of one of its self-employed workers.

“Many businesses and their staff may not realise that a working person’s employment rights very much depends on their status,” said Gee. “A person who is self-employed or defined as a worker is likely to have different legal rights to someone else who is considered an employee.”

Last week, in front of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, executives from Uber, Amazon, Deliveroo and Hermes defended their use of gig workers. The hearings are part of a broader government inquiry into the legal and ethical practices of the gig economy.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and a former policy advisor to Tony Blair, was appointed by Theresa May last November to lead a review into modern employment practices.

The government has prevented the Taylor Review from making any recommendations around the closing of tax loopholes. However, it is expected to bring much welcome clarity to the murky area of self-employment.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 15% of the UK labour market is self-employed with an estimated 5 million people classified as gig workers. Despite the government’s focus on gig companies such as Uber and Deliveroo, ONS figures show that 60% of self-employed people work in high-skilled managerial and professional roles.

The Taylor Review is due to be published this summer.