Taylor Review links 'good work' to modern employment practices

RSA chair Matthew Taylor, who led the government’s review into modern employment practices, launched his recommendations yesterday in a speech with Prime Minister Theresa May and Business Secretary Greg Clark.

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Setting out platform for the review, Mr Taylor said he wanted to see a UK economy that truly works for everyone, creating more skilled and well-paid jobs to boost the nation’s earning power and productivity.His 10-month review into modern employment practices examined the UK’s current legal framework in the context of new forces on the economy and labour market, such as the informal gig economy, fairness and the UK's competitiveness.Looking to recalibrate employment protection to match today's labour market, Matthew Taylor said: “Our national performance on the quantity of work is strong. But quantity alone is not enough for a thriving economy and fair society. We believe now is the time to complement that commitment to creating jobs with the goal of creating better jobs.“Bad work – insecure, exploitative, controlling – is bad for health and wellbeing, something that generates cost for vulnerable individuals but also for wider society.“As many business leaders recognise, low quality work and weak management is implicated in our productivity challenge. Improving the quality of work should be an important part of our productivity strategy. Our idea of what it is to be a respected citizen should not stop at the office or factory door.”

Key recommendations in the Modern Employment Practices Review

Among the key recommendations in the 116-page report is a seven-point plan “towards fair and decent work.” This covers workers in the gig economy, the impact of technology and the role of management. The report recommends:
  1. The national strategy for work should be explicitly directed toward the goal of good work for all, such that same basic principles should apply to all forms of employment in the British economy; the taxation of labour is more consistent across employment forms; the benefits of technology are directed to smarter regulation.
  2. Protecting the benefits and opportunities of platform-based working offers for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways, while ensuring fairness for gig workers and those who compete with them. Worker (or ‘Dependent Contractor’) status should be maintained, while the government should seek to deliver clarity around how to distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed.
  3. Better communication of employment law, its promotion and enforcement to help firms make the right choices and individuals to know and exercise their rights, with extra safeguards for dependent contractors.
  4. Supporting more responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations so companies are seen to take good work seriously and are open about their practices.
  5. Finding ways for individuals to feel they have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects through formal and informal learning and in on-the-job and off-the-job activities.
  6. A more proactive approach to the link between workplaces, health and wellbeing.
  7. A sectoral approach to the National Living Wage that engages employers, employees and stakeholders to ensure people are not stuck at the living wage minimum or facing insecurity.

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Stage set for consultation ahead of government response

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Being in work is important, but people also deserve to be treated fairly by their employers whatever work they are carrying out.“Through our Industrial Strategy, we will make sure wherever people are in the country, there are more skilled, well-paid jobs to increase productivity and earning power, benefiting both workers and business.”The government is now set to engage with stakeholders and publish a full government response later in the year.

Taylor Review recommendations could increase burdens on employers

Reacting to the review’s publication, Julie Taylor, senior associate in the employment team at Gardner Leader solicitors, voiced concerns that the new dependent contractor definition could end up costing employers by increasing disputes."The review focuses on recommendations intended to address the low quality work in the flexible contractor market, reduce exploitation of these workers and to increase opportunities for development and fulfillment."We already have employees, workers and self-employed contractors as distinct ways of working. A key recommendation is clarifying the rights that apply to those who fall into the middle ‘worker’ category and renaming them ‘dependent contractors’. This category would most likely catch those working for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber and ensure that they are entitled to sick pay and holiday pay."This recommendation reflects the suggestion from the previous report from the Work & Pensions Committee that those engaged on such terms should be workers by default, which would entitle them to holiday pay. It is intended to recognise that the existing categories are out of touch with our current labour market."This proposal may well help to maintain the flexibility currently valued by so many, but this change to the categories could simply increase disputes and the additional costs will be a heavy burden for employers so even if implemented, this is unlikely to be a quick fix.”

Mobility leaders urged to understand the issues

Lisa Johnson, Global Practice Leader at Crown World Mobility consulting services, looks at the issue of gig workers from the perspective of global mobility"The news agenda has lingered on negatives but the gig economy refers in general to a work environment where temporary contract positions are common and companies use independent workers to fill short term engagements," she said."The focus in global mobility should be on how to support a growing and independent talent pool which could be crucial to business development in future."Among the questions Ms Johnson envisages will become more common include where the responsibilities start and end for gig workers, and whether countries will develop visas to allow for the movement of contract employees."The big discussion may be about how businesses can compete effectively for independent global talent, rather than how they exploit them. Certainly the issue isn’t going away – so global mobility managers need to get to grip with it as soon as possible.”

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