Government committee launches inquiry into worker rights in the future world of work

Houses of Parliament

The government has launched an inquiry into the future world of work, focusing on the working practices, status and rights of agency staff, self-employed individuals and those working in the gig economy.

The inquiry, led by The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, centres on issues such as low pay and poor working conditions for people who work in non-traditional employee roles.

The inquiry follows the committee’s inquiries into working practices at Sports Direct and the digital economy, as well as questions around the status of workers in the on-demand economy.

The issues to be addressed by the inquiry include: the definition of ‘worker’; the status and rights of agency workers, casual workers and the self employed for the purposes of tax, benefits and employment law; what protections and support should be implemented for non-traditional employees and who should be responsible for these; what differences there should be in levels of government support for employees and the self employed, for example when it comes to sick pay, holiday pay, pensions and maternity pay.

The inquiry will also examine issues around terms and conditions of employees, such as zero-hour contracts, and the role of trade unions in representing the self employed and individuals in non-traditional employee roles.

The inquiry will be open to written submissions until 19 December 2016.

Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “In recent months, we’ve seen growing evidence of agency workers and those working in the gig economy being exposed to poor working conditions. This growing trend raises questions over employment status and lack of worker rights.

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“The nature of work is undoubtedly changing. It will change further with growing use of technology and a spreading of automation across the economy. This might provide flexibility and choice for some people, but unleash insecurity and squeezed working conditions for others.

“With these economic and technological changes shaking up the world of work, it’s vitally important that workers are protected.”