News in Brief November 2017 Draft Bill challenges gig economy self-employed The Work and Pensions and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees has published a joint report and draft bill that aims to close some of the loopholes in the gig economy, following the publication earlier this year of the Taylor report and highly publicised cases against Uber, Deliveroo and others. The Bill has proposes that ‘worker’ status would be the default legal position for those employed in the gig economy together with fines for firms that falsely classify workers as self-employed. The committees found that the current situation puts an unacceptable burden on workers to address poor practice through an expensive and risky court case while the companies themselves operate with relative impunity. Clarified legislation would protect those who are legitimately self-employed and creating a new presumption of ‘worker by default’ would mean that companies are required to provide their workers with a basic safety net of rights and benefits – or prove that their working practices genuinely do reflect self-employment. Plan to end low-skilled migration Senior Conservatives have supported a plan by campaign group Leave Means Leave arguing that low-skilled migration to the UK should be stopped after the UK leaves the EU. The plan has been sent to ministers as they prepare a white paper on immigration. It would require highly-skilled migrants to have English language competence, health insurance, savings and a job paying £30k or more. NHS doctors and nurses would qualify and be able to continue to come to the UK under the work permit scheme, the documents said. Meanwhile, NHS Digital figures reveal that there has been an increase in EU staff in the UK over the past year despite the Brexit vote. Data shows that 43,509 EU nationals worked in the NHS in June compared with 42,153 in June 2016, with a 4.5% increase in EU doctors alongside increases in registrars, trainee doctors, midwives and ambulance staff. The number of nurses from the EU dipped, however, falling 1.38%. Meanwhile, figures show that 29% of NHS staff under the age of 30 chose to stop saving in the NHS pension plan last year, up from 18% in 2014/15. Industrial strategy to remedy UK's productivity 'weakness' A new UK government industrial strategy aims to tackle Britain's "weakness" of productivity. Business Secretary Greg Clark said workforce efficiency was "well below what can be achieved" and vowed to address the crisis threatening to "stop us achieving our potential." Business groups have given a broadly positive welcome to the government’s white paper. Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the document “identifies the key challenges that the UK will need to overcome if businesses are to remain competitive.” Adam Marshall, the head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the concerns of firms had been “listened to” by Mr Clark during the consultation period. Mike Cherry, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed, in particular, the focus on improving technical skills, new physical and digital infrastructure and increased research and development spending. The white paper also calls on companies to adapt their workplaces and urges businesses to allow people to work more flexibly so they can look after elderly relatives. It says: "With an ageing workforce and fewer people entering the labour market from education and training, employers will need a more flexible labour market that can accommodate older workers." However, the CBI warned that the government needed to focus on delivery. “This is a time for consistency and determination, not perpetual change with the political winds,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, its director general.