Gig economy couriers should be eligible for a pension, says UK regulator | Gig economy

The head of the UK’s pension regulator has called on gig economy companies to recognise the employment rights of those who work for them and set up workplace pensions.

Charles Counsell, the chief executive of the Pensions Regulator, said the government-backed body was already working closely with Uber on a workplace scheme after a supreme court ruling found the ride-hailing group’s private-hire drivers should be classed as workers, with rights to minimum hourly pay, holiday pay and a pension.

At present, most couriers for companies operating in the gig economy, including Deliveroo and Uber’s food courier business, UberEats, as well as most of Just Eat’s couriers in the UK, are classed as self-employed contractors without key workplace benefits including a pension.

After the supreme court ruling, Uber agreed that its 70,000 UK private-hire drivers would be recognised as workers with minimum hourly pay and a pension.

“I am going to call on other organisations in the gig economy to start to recognise that the people who work for them are workers and should be eligible for a pension,” Counsell told the regulator’s TPR Talks podcast.

“It is all about helping people working in the economy to have a decent standard of living in retirement and I really encourage those in the gig economy to take a stance and start putting their workers into pensions. Lets not deal with this on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Counsell’s stance was supported by Stephen Timms, the MP who chairs parliament’s work and pensions select committee. Timms told the podcast that the influential committee would be launching an inquiry this autumn into how to help those in the gig economy save for retirement.

“I’m pleased that Uber is constructively implementing that decision [of the supreme court],” Timms said. “Others like Deliveroo ought to be doing the same.”

He said that gig workers would see “significant benefits” from a change to worker status.

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The GMB trade union said the comments by Counsell and Timms reflected an environment in which it was getting harder for the likes of Deliveroo to deny their couriers worker status.

Mick Rix, a national officer for the GMB, said: “Pensions are important to all working people. The more people in a pension scheme, the more comfortable and better off people will be in retirement.”

Alex Marshall, the president of the gig economy union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, said workers should not have to battle to ensure that employment law was enforced. “The Uber ruling was resoundingly clear that these workers are owed their rights. This is a sector that thrives on exploiting loopholes. The ruling must be enforced immediately and be applied across the gig economy,” he said.

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