Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices

Zero hours, the ‘gig economy’ and apprenticeship levy costs have all been high on the news agenda recently. The conclusions of the long-anticipated Taylor review were finally revealed last month. Since then the government-commissioned Independent Review of Employment Practices has been pored over by employers and HR experts to determine how it affects businesses and workers alike.

The Review was commissioned to look at how employment practices should change to keep up with modern business models. The review considered what “good quality work” might look like considering issues around new forms of work via digital platforms, employee rights and responsibilities as well as employer freedoms and obligations. “Bad work,” said Matthew Taylor who headed the review, that is “insecure, exploitative, controlling – is bad for health and wellbeing, something that generates cost for vulnerable individuals but also for wider society.”

The report’s overriding conclusion was that the UK’s economy should be “fair and decent”. The report went on to acknowledge the need for flexibility, increasing the quality of work and clarifying current employment legislation.

Recommendations included:

  • that people who worked in the ‘gig economy’ should be classed as ‘dependent contractors’ and that a clear distinction should be made between this category and those who are legitimately self-employed. It is estimated that 1.1 million people work in Britain’s gig economy in 2017.
  • the National Living Wage should be used to raise the pay of low-waged workers who should not get stuck on this rate – employees should be given the chance to progress.
  • the non-wage cost to employers of employment should not be increased e.g. the expense of the apprenticeship levy was raised as a concern.
  • companies should have good management and strong employment relations within their organisation without the need for increased regulation.

With workers and employers sometimes seeing things from a different perspective to each other, businesses, trade unions and employment experts have all been having their say.

So what do employers and employment experts think about the report?

From the perspective of a network representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and all sectors, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, welcomed the “common-sense changes” of the report and the “two-way bargain that needs to be struck that gives flexibility and security to both employers and employees.”

From a similar direction, the Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman, Mike Cherry welcomed improvements to the lot of the UK’s self-employed in the areas of maternity allowance, pension access, collective income insurance models and a new definition of self-employment.”

The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, however, while welcoming parts of the report, wanted the review to be bolder in terms of worker rights and protections arguing that for zero hour workers “a ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours is no right at all.”

HR specialists CIPD welcomed the fairer treatment of gig economy workers but wished to see a clear and practical framework to prevent the risk of discouraging employers from offering flexible roles.

So it seems that although different interest groups may have been concerned with different parts of the report, opinions are not radically divided. After all few could disagree with “fair and decent” working practices. As always, the devil will be in any follow-up legislative details – the government is now engaging with stakeholders ahead of publishing a full government response later in the year.

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