Confused by the “gig economy”? Acas has published new and updated guidance on employment status.

The “gig economy” is where individuals are hired by companies on a freelance basis to carry out short-term tasks or projects known as “gigs”, and has become increasingly common in recent years. The “gig economy” has rarely been out of the news in the last few months, but for the wrong reasons. There was the  Employment Tribunal decision that Uber drivers are in fact workers rather than self-employed subcontractors (Aslam & others v Uber BV & others [2017] IRLR 4 ET); similarly a bike courier working for CitySprint (Dewhurst v CitySprint UK Ltd ET/2202512/2016) was also found to be a worker; as was a plumber (Pimlico Plumbers Ltd & another v Smith [2017] EWCA Civ 51 CA). There are other cases pending and the potential ramifications are wide and far reaching, although Uber is appealing the decision, and others may follow suit.

The three main types of employment status are employee, worker and self-employed. A worker has basic employment rights such as the right to the National Minimum Wage (and National Living Wage), holiday pay and protection from discrimination. An employee has all of the rights that a worker has, but in addition has the right to claim unfair dismissal and the right to a statutory redundancy payment (after 2 years’ service), and family friendly rights such as the right to maternity leave and pay, and the right to request flexible working. A self-employed person has few if any employment rights, depending on the circumstances.

Where people classed as self-employed contractors have instead been found  to be workers, as in the Uber case, this means that they are therefore entitled to the employment rights enjoyed by workers.

In October last year the Government announced the launch of an independent review of employment practices in the modern economy, which is expected to report its findings later this year. In the meantime, Acas have announced that they have updated their guidance on employment status to help people understand the different ways in which people can work and the employment rights (if any) that they are entitled to as a consequence of their employment status. Acas’ revised guidance includes more information in relation to self-employed people and “umbrella companies”.

The Acas guidance also covers agency workers, apprentices, fixed term contracts, zero hours contracts, workers with no fixed work base, and piece workers; as well as volunteers, and people on work experience and internships.

If you have any queries about employment status that aren’t answered in this brief article please contact Helen Kay on or .

HMK Legal - straightforward affordable employment law advice