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UK's May takes aim at gig economy with new safeguards for workers

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UK Prime Minster Theresa May will crack down on unfair working practices on Wednesday, unveiling extra safeguards for agency workers and those employed by gig-economy companies including Uber Technologies and Roofoods's Deliveroo.

[LONDON] UK Prime Minster Theresa May will crack down on unfair working practices on Wednesday, unveiling extra safeguards for agency workers and those employed by gig-economy companies including Uber Technologies and Roofoods's Deliveroo.

The government's "Good Work Plan" includes enforcement of holiday and sick pay for the first time and compelling firms to provide workers with a full list of their employment rights on their first day of work, according to a Business Department statement. Ministers will also define "working time", so workers employed through apps such as Uber know what work they should be paid for.

The proposals are a response to a review last year by Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair, who was tasked in 2016 with finding ways to improve modern working practices. It's part of Mrs May's signature policy to ensure Britain has an "economy which works for all".

"We recognise the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes," Mrs May said in the statement.

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In all, the government said it's working to address 52 of Mr Taylor's 53 proposals. The only one it won't accept is the recommendation to reduce the difference in national insurance contributions made by company employees and those made by the self-employed. That's because Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond already tried to do that last year, and was forced to abandon the policy by lawmakers in his own Conservative Party.

Ministers have started four consultations on different aspects of the new measures.

The Institute of Directors, a business lobby group, said the government is right to consult widely over measures that "could be the biggest shake-up of employment law in generations". At the same time, it questioned the lack of reform of national insurance taxation.

"The different tax treatment of the employed and self-employed has been a driving force behind the rise in self-employment in recent years, but tax treatment should not determine a person's choice of employment status," said Stephen Martin, the institute's director general.

"The government should have shown the courage to tackle this issue head on."

Other proposals announced on Wednesday include: Ensuring all workers - even those on zero-hours contracts and those undertaking casual work - get a payslip; new rights for workers to request a more stable contract; cracking down on employers who use unpaid interns to do the job of a worker; naming and shaming employers who fail to pay out employment tribunal awards; and investigating whether those on zero-hours contracts should have a higher minimum wage.

"We want to embrace new ways of working, and to do so we will be one of the first countries to prepare our employment rules to reflect the new challenges," said Business Secretary Greg Clark.

"The Good Work plan puts the UK at the front of the pack in addressing the challenges and opportunities of modern ways of working."

Mr Taylor himself praised the government's response to his review as "substantive and comprehensive".

"It will make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable workers, and that is what matters," he said in a statement.

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