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Frank Field report: Don’t regulate the platform economy into oblivion, IPSE warns

Parliament should attempt to improve conditions for vulnerable self-employed workers, but it must not regulate the platform economy out of existence in doing so, IPSE has warned.

Responding to a report on Deliveroo rider working conditions by Frank Field MP and Andrew Forsey, IPSE agreed on the need to improve conditions for struggling riders, but cautioned against harming other self-employed workers and businesses in the process.  

In the report, Field recommended making companies prove their workforces were self-employed. IPSE warns this would create a severe bureaucratic barrier that would not only stop businesses engaging people but also prevent the self-employed from working flexibly.

The report also recommended that Deliveroo should guarantee the national living wage for all the time that people are logged into the app and available for work. IPSE suggests this would further corrode the flexibility of the gig economy and that it would not be a workable business model.

Instead, IPSE recommends giving further thought to the Taylor Review proposal to “adapt the piece rates legislation to ensure those working in the gig economy are still able to enjoy maximum flexibility whilst also being able to earn the NMW.”

“Frank Field’s report is absolutely right that current employment classifications are out of step with modern working practices. And as a result of this, it’s true that a small number of self-employed workers find themselves earning less than the national living wage, with no other working opportunities. This is clearly not ideal.

“However, it’s vital that in trying to improve conditions for people in this group, we don’t harm the vast majority of the self-employed community who gain real benefit from this way of working – and that’s a real risk here. Flexibility is the foundation not just of the platform economy but of all self-employment, and some of the measures Field has proposed would be a disaster for the flexibility of the sector.  

“Making businesses prove their workforces are self-employed, for example, would add a burdensome layer of bureaucracy that would limit opportunities both for businesses and the self-employed themselves. We should be making it easier to become self-employed, not creating new barriers to it.

“We must also be careful not to push people who work via online platforms into rigid shift patterns, as this will undermine the flexibility which people who work this way value.

“We need to look at more nuanced, workable solutions – to protect not just the platform economy but all self-employment.” Andy Chamberlain, IPSE's Deputy Director of Policy.