A new report into terms of employment in the UK recommended "fair and decent" standards of benefits that ensure those on part time hours or piece work are not exploited by unscrupulous bosses.
Matthew Taylor, the author of the report, published by the government on Tuesday, was particularly concerned by the rise in number of people employed in the so-called "gig" economy.
The gig’s up
The term gig economy refers to workers employed in insecure jobs characterised by short-term contracts and freelance work with few, if any, employee's rights.
In an interview on BBC Television on Tuesday, Taylor said: "There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings.”
He added: “And there are too many people who don't see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better."
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates that around one in 10 workers in the UK are now in precarious jobs with no rights to sick or holiday pay, redundancy protection or safeguards against unfair sacking.
The TUC went on to say that zero-hours workers – where an employer declines to provide specified times or hours of work – now earn a third less than employees in similar jobs with full time contracts.
"Insecure work has exploded in the past decade. In far too many cases, the only people who’ve benefitted are bad bosses," said TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady, commenting on its Living on the Edge report published earlier in the year.
Taylor recommended that those on lower incomes should have routes to progress in their careers.
He added that companies who supervise their staff – as opposed to genuine self-employed workers – should offer benefits such as holiday pay and National Insurance. Taylor called such workers "dependent contractors".
The government's predominant concern in such a "dark" jobs market is tax collection, and Taylor also suggested an end to cash payments to employees.
"In a few years time as we move to a more cashless economy, self employed people would be paid cashlessly – like your window cleaner. At the same time they can pay taxes and save for their pension," Taylor told the BBC.
Some criticised the report for not going far enough, however. The report was light on how to tackle pensions in the gig economy and how to encourage self-employed workers to provision for old age.
“There’s no two ways about it, this was a big missed opportunity,” said Gregg McClymont at Aberdeen Asset Management.
He added: “It makes no sense to not extend the pensions provision enjoyed by the majority of workers to those in the gig economy.”
On Friday, Pimlico Plumbers lost an appeal against a previous ruling that one of its workers was entitled to basic employment rights and should not have been treated as an independent contractor.
The ruling could set a precedent for employees at other companies that operate under terms of independent contracting, such as Uber and Deliveroo.