How to navigate employment rights in the gig economy

If you are unsure about your employment status, the rights and benefits that come with it, you need advice from professionals who understand the law.

12th July 2018

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Pimlico Plumber case gives new hope for workers’ rights in the gig economy. The case highlighted confusion regarding the rights of those who work as freelancers, short-term employees or seasonal workers in our modern economy and how businesses and individuals should operate under this new ruling.

If you are unsure about your employment status, the rights and benefits that come with it, it is crucial to seek expert advice from professionals who have an extensive knowledge and understanding of the law. Nicole Rogers, solicitor at DAS Law, explains…

For Employees

As a fixed-term employee do I have the same rights a full-time member of staff?

As a fixed term worker, you have the right not to be treated less favourably than a permanent member of staff unless it can be objectively justified.

My employer stated they would hire me after my temporary contract was up, and then reneged on their promise, can I take legal action against them?

This will depend upon whether a legally binding contract was formed. If your employer has merely stated that they would consider hiring you, it is unlikely that a binding contract was created. However, if your employer has offered you a permanent contract and you have accepted, this would mean that a binding contract is in place.

Legal claims of this nature will be very limited, however, as the employee will have minimal rights so early on in employment. You should seek legal advice to enquire whether you have a legal claim for your notice period, or possibly discrimination if you consider that the contract has been withdrawn because of a ‘protected characteristic’ such as your age or gender.

My place of employment isn’t guaranteeing me the hours specified in the fixed-term contract, can I insist on the agreed hours and do they owe me extra pay even if I haven’t worked the hours?

If your contract provides you with a minimum number of set hours, you should be paid for these even if you have not worked them as long as you are ready and willing to work. You can raise this informally with your employer initially, and consider raising a formal grievance if you do not get a satisfactory outcome. You may be able to claim for any unpaid wages so it is important that you seek legal advice.

If I am on a zero-hour contract but am not receiving any hours, is there any legal action I can take?

Genuine zero-hour workers are not guaranteed any set number of shifts and therefore it will be difficult for you to take any legal action.

Can I claim benefits if I am on a zero-hour contract?

You may be entitled to claim benefits dependent upon the amount of your income.

If I am a seasonal worker but fall ill, am I entitled to sick pay?

You may be entitled to sick pay if you;

  • Have followed the correct absence reporting procedures;
  • Have done some work for your employer;
  • Been ill for at least four consecutive days;
  • Earn on average £116 (April 2018) per week (gross)
  • Have not already exhausted your entitlement to sick pay

You may have an enhanced entitlement to sick pay so you should check your contract.

If I am on a fixed-term contract or zero-hour contract, do I have to give my employer notice to leave?

The law states that once you have been employed as an employee for one month, you are required to give at least one week’s notice. You should check your contract to enquire what your obligations are in relation to providing notice to leave as your employer may require a longer notice period than one week.

Genuine zero-hour/casual workers are not classed as employees; therefore the statutory minimum notice periods do not apply.

For Employers

I am an employer, what rights are employees guaranteed if they work fixed-term or zero-hour contracts?

Fixed term employees are guaranteed the same rights as permanent employees and should not be treated less favourably unless it can be objectively justified.

Genuine zero-hour/casual workers aren’t entitled to the same rights as employees however they will still be entitled to certain rights such as the right not to be discriminated against, the right to national minimum wage and the right to annual leave

If I hire an employee on a zero-hour contract but there aren’t any hours for them, can I let them go or give them no hours for their duration of the contract?

A genuine zero-hour worker will not have the right to a guaranteed number of shifts and you can usually end the engagement with little risk. However, if a zero-hour worker has been with you for a number of years and has always worked a regular pattern of shifts, he/she may be able to argue that they have attained the status of employee and therefore, to terminate the contract may pose a significant risk.

Are seasonal workers entitled to staff benefits and bonuses?

Any entitlements will be dependent upon the contract agreed between the parties. However, a seasonal worker may, in some circumstances, be able to argue that they are a part-time employee. In these circumstances, you would not be able to treat a part-time employee less favourably than a full-time employee.

If there is a seasonal employee that isn’t meeting the expectations of the business, can I let them go?

During the first two years of employment, employees have limited employment rights. However, there are occasions when an employee can pursue a claim, regardless of their length of service. For example, an employee with only one month’s service can issue a claim for discrimination. You should take legal advice in the event that you intend to dismiss any employee.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

Nicole Rogers

Senior Associate, Solicitor

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