The Pensions Regulator is working to give gig economy workers access to pensions, but “legal complexities and routine challenges from employers” remain a challenge.
In a letter to the Work and Pensions committee, sent on July 1, TPR’s chief executive Charles Counsell revealed the watchdog is working on “a number of individual cases across the delivery and transport sectors”, with a total of 150,000 to 200,000 gig-economy workers being affected.
“It is only right that workers contributing to the economy have the opportunity to save for retirement,” he said.
Counsell added that ”employers in the gig economy should recognise and comply with their automatic enrolment responsibilities voluntarily and promptly”.
However, he admitted TPR faces “considerable legal complexities and routine challenges from employers when intervening”, adding that the regulator officials “work hard to overcome these hurdles as part of our role to protect savers”.
TPR was asked whether the legal position of workers in the taxi and private hire industry is now clear, following the court ruling on March 2021, which entitled Uber drivers to workplace pensions.
Regardless, Counsell “does not consider that the legal position of workers is clear whether those individuals operate in the taxi and private hire industry, or more generally, across the gig economy”.
The circumstances of an individual’s employment, including the terms and conditions they operate under, makes satisfying the “worker” test, “entirely specific to the facts of each case,” he added.
The letter comes after chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Stephen Timms wrote to the TPR asking for additional clarification on the pension status of gig workers as a whole.
FTAdviser's sister publication Pensions Expert reported on June 8 that Counsell has backed using self-assessment tax returns to encourage more self-employed to save into pensions, in a bid to tackle huge levels of pensions under-saving in the cohort.
There have been a number of high profile cases addressing gig worker’s pension rights, following the court’s decision on Uber, with GMB union taking ride-hailing service Bolt to court, in a bid to grant its drivers employment rights including pensions.