APPG for Entrepreneurship – May 2019 Digest

Uber strikes across four UK cities last week brought the gig economy and the rights of those who work within it front and centre.  

The heads of two Parliamentary Select Committees have urged Ministers to enact recommendations from the Taylor Review into employment. Almost two years after the launch of the Review, Rachel Reeves MP (Lab), chair of the BEIS Select Committee, accused the Government of "dawdling" and asked that it come forward with legislation to protect workers' rights and end abuse by "unscrupulous" employers. Frank Field (Independent), chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, added: "Until the Government gets a grip on the gig economy, employers' revenues will go on being subsidised by their sweated workforce and an exhausted public purse."

At a speech on the future of the Labour Market at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Amber Rudd MP (Con), Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, echoed these concerns, saying: "there are fears that for employees, the gig economy could objectify labour to a point where their working lives are subordinate to an unthinking algorithm".

A recent Oxford University survey found most Uber drivers had moved to the platform from a permanent role, attracted by the flexibility and control it offered. And as the Taylor Review pointed out, we now have more people wanting to work fewer hours than those who want to work more. One thing is for certain: with an estimated 4.8m people currently gigging in the UK, the gig economy is here to stay.

MPs have bridged the aisle on an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would see a relaxation of the current rules. Jo Johnson MP (Con) and Paul Blomfield MP (Lab) are calling for foreign students to be allowed to work in the UK for up to two years – a policy that was slashed to 4 months in 2012 when Theresa May was still Home Secretary. "If we are serious about Global Britain," former Universities Minister Johnson said, "we must recognise that international students bring huge benefits to our universities, our local economies and our soft power". 

In Silicon Valley, over half of all engineering and technology companies have at least one foreign-born founder, with the majority initially moving to the US to study, not work. But entrepreneurs need time to do the market research, develop key contacts, and spot an opportunity before taking the leap. The pair's bid has the backing of nine Commons Committee chairs, as well as Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and former Conservative Ministers Justine Greening, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell and Priti Patel. 

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