There’s very little ‘good news’ for gig economy businesses such as the taxi operators including Uber who have already been hit hard by employment tribunal decisions and are now facing calls for more stringent checks ad licensing conditions in a report published by a Department of Transport Working Group. Tasked with scoping out a new regime for taxis and private hire vehicles, UK employment lawyers will be interested to note the emphasis placed on the working conditions of drivers, and other suggestions that will have an employment law impact.
Recommendations impacting on working conditions and pay
Of particular interest to employment claim solicitors will be the recommendation, hidden at number 33 in a list of 34 recommendations, that “Licensing authorities should take into account any evidence of a person or business flouting employment law, and with it the integrity of the National Living Wage, as part of their test of whether that person or business is "fit and proper" to be a PHV or taxi operator”. This clearly comes out of the recent issues Uber have experienced, both in the employment tribunal and in having their license to operate in London revoked (albeit that this was temporarily restored on appeal). The gig economy has been the cause of concern for many of the best employment lawyers in recent years – and it seems that the concerns, and recent court decisions, are having an impact.
It's not just a recommendation that licensing authorities should consider the employment practices of companies operating taxis and private hire vehicles. The working group has made some other suggestions which will have an impact on HR and employment in this sector. These include:
- A recommendation that drivers should be able to communicate in both spoken and written English to a high enough standard to handle ‘challenging’ situations that they might face in the course of their work;
- A recommendation that taxi and PHV drivers undergo disability quality and awareness training
- A recommendation that driver hours should be limited in the same way as bus and lorry drivers
- A recommendation that there be DBS and barred list checks for all drivers
While policing these may all be the responsibility of the licensing authority and not the employing organisation per se, there may be a knock on impact on those employing organisations.
Addressing challenges for the future
The report is clearly aimed only at the taxi and private hire sector and is designed to address a system that is no longer fit for purpose and which undermines public safety. However, it’s interesting to see that the Working Group considers that pay and working conditions should be included as part of a licensing decision. It remains to be seen whether this idea will catch on in other sectors if the gig economy where licensing is an issue – for example in trades such as gas fitters or electricians where a ‘self-employed’ model such as the one at play in the Pimlico Plumbers case.
For any questions about the gig economy and how recent cases might affect you or your business, you can get in touch with one of our experienced employment lawyers by calling 0203 959 9123.
Posted on: Wednesday, 26 September, 2018