07 July 2017
Workers in the “gig economy” are earning less than £2.50 an hour, a new report by Labour Party MP Frank Field has shown.
In the report – which focused on the firms Parcelforce, DPD and British Car Auctions (BCA) – Field said contracts were “too often characterised by poverty wages, chronic insecurity and appalling treatment”, according to the Guardian.
He called for an “emergency intervention” after interviewing workers that told him they had been fined hundreds of pounds for needing time off sick, and that they had earned just £2.22 an hour.
“The poverty pay and shoddy treatment meted out to some of those workers is, sadly, inevitable in the absence of statutory minimum standards in the gig economy. That generates huge profits while minimising tax payments,” the Guardian quoted Field as saying.
He urged the government to change the focus of employment law so that the onus would be on companies to prove their contractors are “self employed”, rather than on workers to prove otherwise.
The newspaper also republished some of the evidence given by Parcelforce couriers who said they were “frequently warned we could lose our jobs if we don’t do as we’re told”, with some drivers “coming to work with broken bones” and another saying he was so afraid to take time off that he paid a colleague to accompany him “whilst I sat next to him with a bucket in case I was sick”.
Field noted that Parcelforce included a clause in its contracts with drivers that prohibited them from challenging their employment status – a similar ploy used by Deliveroo, and one Field described as “symptomatic of the threatening and hostile environment in which some people are required to work”.
Meanwhile, couriers for DPD reported losing hundreds of pounds after being fined for not being able to find a replacement driver when they were unwell. A worker for BCA said he had been paid £2.22 per hour.
Field’s report comes just before the Taylor Review, which is expected to be published next week.