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Good Work Matters: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices – Aspiration or Reality?

Good Work Matters: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices – Aspiration or Reality?

In October 2016 the Government commissioned Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts and a team of colleagues to look at modern employment practices and their report was published last week.   As part of their review, the inquiry focussed on the gig economy and those working within it.  Currently it is estimated that there are 1.3 million workers working in the gig economy.

The report is titled: ‘Good Work – The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices’ and the approach and the work of the Review is said to be based on a single overriding ambition: that all work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with a realistic scope for development and fulfilment.

That may read as a fairly aspirational headline statement and some of the commentary to date questions whether the report may have missed an opportunity to make any meaningful difference to workers in the gig economy and those on zero hours contracts, whereas others welcome many of the proposals made.

The Report runs to over 100 pages and covers a lot of ground; we set out some of the recommendations and findings below:

  • The current legal framework works reasonably well but needs to adapt to reflect emerging business models, with greater clarity for individuals and employers.
  • Case principles should be reflected in the legislation and there should be the ability for legislation to be updated quickly to respond to changing working conditions, with greater use of secondary legislation and guidance.
  • A new category of worker, or ‘dependent contractor’, should be introduced with greater clarity about how to distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed; there should be additional protections for this group.
  • The requirement for a worker or dependant contractor to have to perform work personally should be removed and more emphasis should be placed on ‘control’ in the definition of dependent contractor.
  • Those seeking justice in the courts should be able to find out whether they are eligible for the rights they wish to pursue before incurring a court fee.
  • The State should show support for successful claimants by acting to ensure that any monies awarded to them by the courts from a company are in fact paid.
  • Firms in the gig economy should be able to show that people working for them earn in excess of the Minimum Wage. This will involve modelling the average number of jobs or gigs an average worker can perform.
  • Workers should be able to see how much their hourly rate might be in quiet periods when less work is available; they are able to perform this work at the lower rate, even if that does not meet the Minimum Wage threshold.
  • The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within an organisation.
  • The quality of the work offered and enhancing skills should be at the heart of the debate.
  • The report does not go so far as to outlaw zero hours contracts but says their overuse will have to be dealt with.
  • Longer term taxation of labour needs to be made more consistent across all forms of employment, whilst at the same time improving the rights and entitlements of self-employed people.

By way of background, with the rise of the gig economy engaging workers in companies such as Deliveroo, Uber and Pimlico Plumbers, there have already been a number of employment tribunal cases looking at the status of their workers. The companies’ case has been that these workers are genuinely self-employed and can chose to accept or decline any particular assignment.

The courts have to date tended to find in favour of the individuals, readily granting them ‘worker’ status rather than deeming them genuinely self-employed and the individuals have thus benefitted from the rights to go along with this worker status, such as the right to paid holiday and sick pay.

Quite how much the recommendations of the Taylor report will impact the UK workforce remains to be seen and much will depend on the extent to which and the speed with which the recommendations are in fact implemented.    In any event, the companies’ case that individuals working in the gig economy are genuinely self-employed and independent contractors now appears an argument which may have run its course.

 

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