Scottish expert advisory panel on the collaborative economy: report

The Scottish Expert Advisory Panel on the Collaborative Economy makes recommendations on how Scotland can position itself in the collaborative economy.

4.0 Working in the Collaborative Economy

The issue of how the collaborative economy is changing the world of work has been the topic of much research, debate and exploration over the last year; not least with the publishing of the Taylor Review. [16]

A subset of the collaborative economy, the gig economy chiefly describes the use of digital platforms for people to access casual or freelance work. It is dominated by platforms offering lower-skilled labour such as cleaning and driving.

It would have been easy for this panel to become preoccupied with gig economy activity in the ride-sharing, taxi and private hire sector [17] only. And this panel were pleased to see a specific consultation raised with regard to the use of technology within the taxi and private hire sector. [18]

This panel has heard the concerns of the taxi and private hire sector, and consciously taken a wider perspective, and looked at rights and responsibilities within the gig economy more broadly.

However, with specific reference to private hire taxi license, adherence to local regulations set by individual licensing authorities should be enforced rigorously, regardless of whether the company issued with a licence is an online platform or a bricks and mortar company.

The extent of this panel's ability to make specific recommendations with regard to employment law is limited in that this is a reserved matter and we have noted the significant work of the Taylor Review and the recommendations made within it. We await the UK Government's response with regard to implementing these recommendations and have focused our efforts on where Scotland can act, and add to, that work.

4.1. Fair work

The principles of fair work should be used as a fundamental underpinning of our approach to the gig economy. The principles that are detailed in the Scottish Government's Fair Work Framework [19] are summarised as:

  • Effective Voice: The ability to speak, individually or collectively, for example, through a recognised trade union, and to be listened to, is closely linked to the development of respectful and reciprocal workplace relationships.
  • Opportunity: Fair opportunity allows people to access and progress in work and employment and is a crucial dimension of fair work.
  • Security: Security of employment, work and income are important foundations of a successful life. This can be achieved through building stability into contractual arrangements, adopting at least the Living Wage, giving opportunities for hours of work that can align with family life and caring commitments.
  • Respect: Fair work is work in which people are respected and treated respectfully, whatever their role and status.

This is a useful lens through which to view the gig economy, determining recommendations that genuinely tackle the challenges it poses today and understanding the extent to which we can shape its growth in Scotland tomorrow.

PwC statistics cite growth of the gig economy as being worth £2 billion by 2020. The Taylor Review estimates 1.3 million gig economy workers in the UK. [20] It is often assumed that the gig economy is about low skilled workers accessing work through platforms; the reality is more diverse with many higher skilled workers increasingly using platforms in this way. However, the Chief Economist to the Bank of England has claimed that the emergence of the gig economy is in part responsible for wage growth sitting at only 2%. [21]

At the heart of our exploration of the gig economy is a very big question. What is the kind and quality of work we want in Scotland and does the gig economy support or undermine that vision? We need to ensure that those who actively and positively choose to work in the gig economy are protected and can build a flexible career around this type of lifestyle choice. Those who are "forced" into this lifestyle through need or necessity must be protected. And fundamentally, if a business model by necessity must not offer basic rights in order to be commercially viable, then this does not constitute access to good or fair work.


  • Collaborative economy platforms should be assessed as to how they offer fair work, and be required to report publicly on their efforts to do so on an annual basis.
  • The Scottish Government needs to give a tangible signal to collaborative platforms that are embodying best practice when it comes to offering fair work, or creating a different power relationship between workers and platforms – such as recognising trade unions, increased worker engagement and particularly co-operative models of ownership.
  • Facilitated dialogue between the Scottish Government, the Fair Work Convention, trade unions and platforms should be encouraged as a continuation of the work of this panel. Existing, commercial providers who are willing to engage in this way should be welcomed and encouraged to do so.
  • Platforms should be encouraged to step in to address gaps, working with the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed, where those offering services are genuinely self–employed, to offer illness and injury cover, and actively experiment with ways to give their platform workers an effective voice in decisions, including through trade unions.

4.2. Employment status

The status of employment within the collaborative economy has been the subject of much debate, controversy and court action. The Taylor Review states that the ambiguity between employee, worker and self-employment needs to be resolved. It does this by recommending the classification of a 'dependent contractor' as one that is not self-employed but neither is it accurate to classify them as an employee.

The Taylor Review ranges across the detail of the status of employment, which incorporates issues that are specific to the gig economy. However, in summary, in their words "if it looks and feels like employment, then it is employment and should be categorised as such".

Employment Law is a reserved matter. The Workers (Rights and Definitions) Bill has been introduced in Westminster which, if enacted, will ensure that anyone doing paid work is treated as an employee/worker with full rights to holiday pay and other benefits. The starting position would be that everyone who provides labour is either a worker or employee and the onus would be on the alleged employer to evidence that the person is, instead, genuinely self-employed. Platform hosts will only be able to opt-out of offering employment rights and protections where they meet certain criteria which has been agreed with recognised trade unions. This will help identify cases of bogus self-employment. The principle behind the Workers Bill, whether enacted or not, should be the starting point for assessing any platforms operating in Scotland in terms of fair work.

4.3. Voice and collective bargaining

There are a number of ways in which workers in the collaborative economy might seek to have a voice and to influence their working conditions and pay.


  • Collective bargaining and action is a key part of mobilising change and improvements within the gig economy. Trade unions need to increase their expertise and awareness of the impacts (both positive and negative) of collaborative economy platforms.
  • Support experimentation between unions and emerging digital platforms (like or Turkopticon) who are supporting collective bargaining power for gig economy workers and are more attractive to younger, more tech-savvy workers.
  • Support innovation and scaling of platform co-operatives or new models which offer a better deal for workers.
  • No provider of services through a collaborative economy platform should be adversely rated or otherwise negatively affected through choosing not to accept work through the platform at any given time.
  • Any provider of services, who is not classified as being employed by a platform should be free and unfettered to work across any number of different collaborative economy platforms.
  • Providers should have the legal right to request and have easy access to data relating to their work that is held by the platform provider.
  • The Scottish Government should provide support, through Scottish Union Learning, to ensure that workers are given the knowledge and capability to understand the platforms they work under, to analyse any data relating to their work that is held by the platform provider, and to increase their awareness of platforms supporting union organisations and collective bargaining.


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