Freelancers’ right to covid-protective clothing

I’m sharing, word-for-word, an email I’ve received from the TUC. I’m posting it here in case any members who are freelancers, have been asked to provide their own PPE, and have felt that – as a result – they have had less safety provision than a standard employee working for the same engager. If so, we need to know about it.


TUC email text:

The TUC has long called for parity of rights for all workers, regardless of contract type, believing it was wrong to exclude workers from key health and safety protections and reserve them only to employees. We welcome this review and the proposed changes, which will offer further protections for ‘limb (b) workers’. (See Bectu footnote – below)

Those in insecure work, including independent contractors, must not be denied worker protections simply because they are not guaranteed future work with the employer. The current system means those in often insecure work, who are most in need of protection, are the very people who miss out on statutory rights.

Where a person is providing labour, whether as a ‘worker’ or ‘employee’, the employer by whom the contract was issued should be legally required to provide any necessary PPE. These workers face significant obstacles due to their dependence on key contacts and agencies to keep their jobs: the risk of being removed from a platform or not contacted again is one of the most common barriers to these workers requesting improvements to working conditions, including health and safety. The current rules stipulating that workers must provide their own PPE has meant that oftentimes provisions are cheaper and sub-standard by comparison.

These changes should also cover Regulations 5- 10 regarding the use, assessment, provision of information relating to PPE, and the accommodation for PPE.

Regarding a number of the HSE’s specific questions as part of this consultation:

  1. the types of PPE that are used and how often they are replaced
    employers should maintain a timetable for inspection and grading of PPE to identify potential damage and failure points, with equipment being replaced when it is no longer providing the wearer adequate protection. This does not apply to PPE which is considered disposable or single-use. Whether or not PPE remains on-site should be factored in to these processes.
  2. cleaning, maintenance and storage costs of PPE
    These associated costs must be met by the employer, and not the worker.
  3. costs of training limb (b) workers to use PPE
    These associated costs must be met by the employer, and not the worker. Workers must be provided with the same standard of information and training as ‘employees’. Employers should pay particular consideration to the higher proportion of migrant workers within the ‘limb (b)’ category and what adjustments may be required to accommodate language needs.
  4. the numbers of limb (b) workers likely to be brought into the scope of the PPER as a result of the change
    The TUC estimates that at least 1.8 million ‘workers’ are currently at risk of losing out on key employment protections because they fail to qualify as employees. These workers are
  5. the likely additional costs and wider impacts that may follow as a result of the change
    One overwhelmingly positive wider impact of this change is expected to be a greater understanding and provision of safe working practises across a number of sectors, particularly those which see a high number of work-related injuries reported annually. Work-related illness and injury costs the economy billions each year.

Bectu footnote: This is the latest in a long line of posts that use the word ‘freelance’ because many people aren’t really clear about their various tax/employment law working relationships.

In this case, it is talking about someone who has ‘Worker’ a worker employment status – as set out helpfully and succinctly in the RSA chart here [pdf].

Also known as ‘limb (b) worker’ and can be understood as a ‘dependent contractor’. A ‘worker’ is registered as self-employed, but provides a service as part of someone else’s business. They generally must carry out the work personally, rather than being able to send someone in their place. Their contract is not with their own client or customer, but with another party (ie a platform).


This entry was posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Employment Law and Rights, Employment status, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gig economy workers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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