What will the recent court cases involving Uber and CitySprint mean for the future of the gig economy in the transport sector?
Something that looks and feels like work is being done. People wear uniforms, obey rules, are tied to a business and depend on it for their income. Yet, when it comes to employment rights, the app delivers a “page not found” message.
It’s like a job, just, you know, an alternative one. It is an alternative to a job with sick pay, holiday pay and protection against unfair dismissal.
That’s the bleak view. There is another way of looking at this. Research carried out by the University of Hertfordshire last year revealed that one in 10 respondents had found work through an online app or platform.
It is hard to make a confident estimate of the number of people in the UK working in this way, but this research suggested that as many as 5 million people could be earning income through the gig economy. It is clear that the sector is growing.
The postal and courier sector, for example, is growing faster than almost any other part of the UK economy, according to official figures. Last month Deliveroo, the food delivery company, said it wanted to hire another 300 IT staff for its London headquarters. The company reported a 650% rise in takeaway orders last year.
But to be successful these businesses are exploiting both the vulnerability of workers and the failure to enforce existing employment law properly. It has taken sustained campaigning and…