Trade Union plans to sue the Government for failing to protect the self-employed and those working in the Gig economy during the Coronavirus pandemic

Many of the self-employed and those working in the Gig economy will be extremely concerned that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made no financial provision for the self-employed in his announcement last Friday.

In order to benefit from Government financial support, one would need to be a ‘Furloughed Worker’. This means that an Employer must designate their employees as such workers in circumstances where there is no work because the workplace is shut down.  This would usually result in short-time working and lay- offs or even redundancies.

To avoid these scenarios, those on the payroll who are sent home will receive 80% of their net pay up to a cap of £2,500 per month.  This will also include those working via Umbrella Companies as long as they are on the payroll and are paying income tax.

Unfortunately, these protections to date have not been extended to the self-employed and those working in the gig economy who make up a sizeable number.   One example is the closure of gyms where self-employed personal trainers suddenly have no income and are worried for their financial future.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is now planning to sue the Government on the basis that it has failed to protect these workers.  It also suggests that the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at £94.25 per week discriminates against women, ethnic minority workers and those working in the Gig economy who are statistically less likely to earn above the £118 weekly earnings threshold needed to qualify for SSP, in that it is insufficient and in some cases not payable.

Typical workers who are also at risk of financial meltdown include Deliveroo and Amazon drivers and couriers.

Dr Jason Moyer-Lee Branch Secretary at the IWGB states ‘Many low paid and precarious workers are on the front lines of this crisis distributing food, delivering medical samples, cleaning buildings and looking after children in need, yet they have the least protection.  Many who become sick or need to self-isolate will receive little or no sick pay…Others who are laid off will not receive wage subsidies from the Government because they are not employees.  No one wants to be litigating right now, but we also cannot stand by while our members are exposed to unnecessary risk or driven into destitution.’

It is all well and good to litigate in such circumstances, however the practicalities are such that employment tribunal hearings are currently being delayed, and at best conducted by telephone.   Any hearings are unlikely to be dealt with any time soon in the current climate.

It may also be the position that the Government listens and makes further announcements which may well provide support for the self-employed and Gig economy workers and helps diffuse this situation.   It is baffling why they were not included in the first place but as ever it is important to listen out for further Government announcements.

Whether you are a business or an individual worker you may have concerns about this and are advised to contact Steven Eckett, Partner and Head of Employment at Meaby & Co LLP.   seckett@meaby.co.uk and 020 7703 5034