The government has responded to Matthew Taylor's review on the gig economy, published in July last year, with a promised overhaul of employment rights to improve conditions for millions of workers - including those in the gig economy. Mishcon de Reya is representing Pimlico Plumbers in the long running worker rights case Pimlico Plumbers in Pimlico Plumbers Limited and Mullins v Smith  EWCA Civ 51, which was heard at the Supreme Court this month, which is currently the highest authority on these issues.
The government's response, which had been expected before Christmas, is the first indication as to what extent Matthew Taylor's recommendations will be implemented. However, as worker status is a nuanced area, and it would indeed be difficult to make any sweeping changes that would benefit everyone, the government has launched a number of consultations before deciding how best to proceed. It will be some months before we have a better idea of exactly how exactly the government is going to address the concerns raised in the Taylor Review.
Much of the response appears to be acknowledging that more needs to be done to ensure that the current laws are enforced – and the spirit as well as the letter of those laws is respected. Rather than any fundamental changes to the law on employment status, the government seems to be seeking to increase transparency in the employment relationship, and is looking to ensure that vulnerable workers have a better idea of their rights. It is also taking more steps to penalise rogue employers who flout their responsibilities. But, interestingly, the government seems to have shied away from tackling a key issues which many believe is at the heart of the challenge around the gig economy: that of how people are taxed, something which may hamper attempts to properly reform the modern workplace.
While the unions have already expressed disappointment that the measures proposed by the government are too timid, it is important to note that the government clearly sees this as a priority. While it may be taking small steps towards changing the system, these are steps that are unlikely to have been taken at all in the absence of the Taylor Review.
Clearer guidance for the wide range of employers across different industries that operate within the gig economy is desperately needed - for those businesses, worker status remains an ongoing challenge. The Employment Rights Act from 1996 does not legislate for matters arising out of today's economy, which has significantly evolved since then. If the government does not formally regulate the gig economy, the raft of other businesses operating within it will need to look to worker status judgments – such as the latest Pimlico one - for a framework on which to operate.
Susannah Kintish, who is representing Pimlico Plumbers, was quoted in the Guardian commenting on this development.