Good Work – The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was published today, making a series of recommendations designed to respond to the challenges of ‘modern business models’. In particular, it targets the rise of the so-called ‘gig economy’ and with it the 3.2 million people who work in insecure jobs.
At one level the Review was a response to uncertainties over the legal rights of those working under zero-hours contracts and within ‘Uberised’ jobs. But as the title of Matthew Taylor’s Report implies, it also had a wider ambition of laying the basis for a new regulatory framework which will encourage the development of ‘good work’ and with it a more engaged and productive workforce.
Importantly, it recognises the importance of ‘responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations’ within organisations and particularly the need for workers to be ‘engaged and heard’. However, it fails to offer a convincing account of how this will be achieved.
Most commentators have focussed on the report’s conclusions regarding the legal rights of those working on non-standard contracts. Many new business models claim to use contractors who are self-employed and consequently do not have the employment rights enjoyed by workers and employees. Furthermore, reports of workers earning well-below the minimum wage and subject to onerous and exploitative contractual provisions have become commonplace.
The Government’s 2017 election manifesto promised that ‘people working in the ‘gig’ economy are properly protected’. The Taylor review has made a number of recommendations to this end. These include:
- the replacement of the legal entity of ‘worker’ with a new category of ‘dependent contractor’
- a right to request guaranteed hours after a year of working on a zero-hours contract
- employers operating platforms such as Uber should be able to show that ‘an average individual, working averagely hard, earns at least 20 per cent more than the National Minimum Wage
- a right to a written statement of terms and conditions on the first day of employment.
Although these measures may provide some clarity, whether they give greater protection to workers is open to question. It could be argued that the legal status of ‘gig’ workers is already well on the way to being resolved, with employment tribunals ruling recently that certain cyclists and drivers for companies such as CitySprint, Excel and Uber were ‘workers’ and therefore qualified for the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay.