IWGB defeats government in gig economy High Court case

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) that the UK government has failed to transpose important EU health and safety protections into UK law. 

In a detailed judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Chamberlain found that the UK has failed to grant workers in the ‘gig economy’ the rights they are entitled to under EU Health and Safety law.

The judgment means that workers in the ‘gig economy’ are entitled to the same EU-derived health and safety rights as employees. Key rights are (i) to be provided with Personal Protective Equipment by the business they are working for and (ii) the right to stop work in response to serious and imminent danger. The UK government must now take steps to ensure that workers have the same protection as employees.

The pandemic has made workers’ rights into a public health issue. The government’s failure to extend health and safety protections has left many workers in the ‘gig economy’ exposed to serious risks. 1 in 10 adults engage in ‘gig economy’ work, which accounts for at least 4.7 million people working in the UK with little to no health and safety protections.

IWGB general secretary Henry Chango Lopez said: “We are delighted with this win for workers’ rights. In the midst of the pandemic, health and safety at work has never been more important. It is crucial that businesses know they must protect the health and safety of their workers and that the Government brings the criminal prosecutions necessary to enforce this law.”

IWGB president Alex Marshall said: “Key workers have been calling for greater protection throughout the pandemic and this has largely fallen on the deaf ears of their employers. The IWGB contacted numerous companies during the first wave and they either did very little or nothing at all as they tried to escape any accountability for their workforce. This ruling is long overdue and the IWGB expects that in the light of this clear ruling, the UK Government will now take urgent legislative measures to ensure workers’ safety.”

Statement from our Solicitor, Kate Harrison: “We are delighted by this clear decision and the Government should now take urgent steps to make sure the judgment is followed and all gig-economy workers can exercise their rights to health and safety protection and PPE during the pandemic and beyond.”

The IWGB was represented by Ijeoma Omambala QC and Cyril Adjei of Old Square Chambers and Kate Harrison and Harry Campbell of Harrison Grant solicitors. Assistance was also provided by Professor Alan Bogg of Bristol University. Old Square Chambers’ report on the ruling can be found here.

The judicial review was supported by a public crowdfunding initiative which received more than 100 donations.

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