Oh crumbs. Did I just agree with Theresa May on national radio? Should freelancers stop whining about their rights?
Today, a government review of employment practices (the Taylor Report) called for all work in the UK economy to be fair. It focused on the gig economy in particular and recommended such workers have the same rights as permanent staff in terms of holiday and sick pay. And that the self-employed should get paid maternity and paternity leave.
Theresa May responded by acknowledging that it was important to have a "flexible" approach that didn't "exploit workers", while the unions slammed the report for its "spectacular failure" to deliver on promises.
I think I may agree with, um, May. We need to introduce flexibility into future legislation so that every worker is protected from exploitation and is paid a fair amount for their time.
Today, I spoke to the BBC Radio 4 show You and Yours about the report and my life as a freelancer. When asked how fair my pay and conditions are, I have to admit that they're more than fair.
Self-employment is, to me, a huge opportunity. I chose to work this way. I chose to leave permanent employment with its protection and rights for workers because, as the freelance writer who gets tech, I can command a higher income and achieve a better work/life balance.
So, do I have the right to ask for extra rights? Does the very nature of self-employment not mean that I am already compensated for the lack of maternity leave, pension or sick pay?
Should all self-employed workers just be grateful for what they have?
No. The real problem is that no two self-employed workers are the same. It's the lack of definition around the way I and others in the self-employment sector work that is dangerous for the future of work and, ultimately, the British economy.
The lack of clarity around defined worker roles is the real problem that the Taylor report failed to address.
What the heck is a "dependent contractor" anyway?
The Taylor report introduced a new "dependent contractor" category that sits between fully employed and self-employed status. Dependent contractors would be eligible for certain rights and companies, like Uber and Deliveroo, that rely on these workers would not be able to dodge their obligations.
However, I am not a dependent contractor. I do not rely on the gig economy. I use it to fund a small fraction of my income as and when I need to. My working situation is a world away from a zero hours contract. I'm not an Uber driver.
So, what am I?
I'm self-employed. I'm one of almost five million British workers that count themselves as self-employed and, arguably, prop up the British economy.
Ahead of the Taylor Review, a survey by PwC suggested more people would consider gig work or a zero-hours contract if they had better guarantees around pay, job security and benefits such as holiday and sick pay.
Surely, more employment in any guise means more wealth and should be widely encouraged?
Yet, the Taylor Review has deemed it necessary to introduce a hybrid "dependent contractor" category, without first providing a statutory definition of self-employment. And this is a huge oversight.
Whether you're a permanent employee, self-employed or somewhere in between, we first need to be clear about the boundaries between different worker roles so we can give all workers the rights they deserve.
Speaking in a statement, Chris Bryce, chief executive at self-employment association IPSE, said: "Any changes to employment status should bring clarity and not add to the confusion around how government treats the way people choose to work."
"When people talk about the gig economy, there is often the mistaken assumption that the services operating in it are all the same. Each relationship has to be judged on its own particular merits, and it would have been a huge error to simply place everyone in the gig economy within the revised worker status. This is why it’s essential to enshrine what it means to be self-employed in law," he added.
If the ultimate goal of the Taylor Review was to protect all workers' rights, then it needs to first give the self-employment sector the recognition it deserves.
As Theresa May takes the summer to flick through the report and plan her next move, I sincerely hope the self-employment sector is not left on the sidelines.
We all have the right to a fair deal at work.
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
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