Thousands of column inches have been given over to whether Uber drivers are self-employed or not. The associated court case will rumble on for years, with the company and campaigners both exaggerating how distinctive the economic substance of Uber really is. But of course this misses the point that almost everyone driving private hire vehicles across the country is currently self-employed whether they are doing business via an app or something as neolithic as a telephone. The real issue is whether you’re content with that situation or not.
There is a similar confusion in the debate on Hermes, a company that uses self-employed contractors to deliver packages. The focus is on the use of technology, but the substance of the work and the trend towards self-employed couriers is what really matters. There is a further lesson in the fact that one in five of the self-employed work not in the gig economy but in a sector even older than plumbing: construction.