IoD: Businesses want clearer rules for world of flexible work

The next Government has been urged to create an online portal that workers, including those in the ‘gig economy’, can use to find out whether they qualify for employee benefits like sick pay and pension contributions. In the latest in a series of pre-election business manifesto papers, the Institute of Directors proposed that Government replicate for employment rights the questionnaire on that tells people whether they are self-employed or an employee for tax purposes.

The IoD, which represents 30,000 business leaders, said that the growth in self-employment in recent years had created beneficial flexibility for individuals and companies, but measures were needed to reduce confusion over different employment statuses. When surveyed in April, three-quarters of IoD members said they would support clearer legal definitions of ‘worker’, and ‘employee’ and ‘self-employed’.

The paper, which will be fed into the official review into Modern Employment Practices, led by Matthew Taylor, called for the next Government to bring in a range of new policies to make sure the changing jobs market works for everyone, including:

  • Opening up the Apprenticeship Levy so that employment agencies and the self-employed can use it to fit their needs
  • Enabling workers on online platforms that provide services like cleaning, handywork or other chores to carry over their profile and customer reviews from one platform to another, so they can keep their ratings. Reviews are the equivalent of a CV on which a gig worker’s professional reputation is based
  • Tasking government departments and the Advertising Standards Agency with making sure adverts for self-employed work fully state the both the benefits and the costs
  • Following the publication of the Taylor Review, launching a review  of the tax system with the aim of levelling the playing field between employees and the self-employed – tax should not be the reason for choosing an employment status.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“The world of work is being transformed by rapid developments in technology, demographic change and shifting attitudes to employment. This has the potential to boost growth and deliver more opportunities for both workers and consumers. However, it also has the potential to increase insecurity at work for some. The next government must take steps to improve protections for workers in a sustainable way without damaging the availability of work opportunities or economic growth.”

Jamie Kerr, Head of Entrepreneurship and Tech Policy, and co-author of the report, added:

“We hear a lot about gig work in the context of a few well-known technology platforms, but less discussed is the importance of flexible, ad-hoc, skilled work for the UK’s growing army of start-up businesses, many of whom will not have the consistent cash flow or need to take on those professionals full-time. Whoever is in No 10 after June 8 must tackle the specific challenges of gig work, while also ensuring that self-employment continues to be a worthwhile route into employment for those looking for the flexibility and autonomy that it offers.”