Original photo: Robert Daly
High hopes for the Taylor review?
Matthew Taylor’s independent review of working practices launches today. We’re looking forward to working with him. Here are the things we think his review has the potential to change for working people:
Making sure everyone can access decent rights at work
Access to key workplace rights including protection against unfair dismissal, and family friendly rights, depend on the ‘employment status’ of the person at work and whether they meet relevant qualifying periods. The growth of zero hours contracts, agency work and casual work, with many working intermittently for an employer, has left many people only able to access the rights associated with ‘worker’ status, rather than the full set of rights that comes with being an ‘employee’.
A key task for the Taylor review is to set out the rights and protections that everybody should be covered by at work – and make it much easier for employees to access these.
Ensuring self-employment is a choice made by the worker, not the employer
Many people appreciate the flexibility and control over their work that self-employment can offer. But too many employers are pushing their workforce into self-employment, to avoid meeting their responsibilities to both workers, and to the exchequer.
The review must look at the tax incentives for employers to encourage their workforce into self-employment, and the impact of this on both rights for those workers and government revenues.
Extending protection for working people when things go wrong
It’s not just rights that are put at risk by the growth of insecure work and self-employment, but also key income protection, when people are sick, on maternity or paternity leave, or retire. As has been well documented, the growth in insecure work has been accompanied by a growth in low pay – meaning that too many people miss out on benefits such as sick pay and paternity pay which require them to meet a minimum earnings floor, as well as automatic enrolment into a workplace pension.
The thinking about protection needs to extend to self-employed workers too. With the growth in low paid self-employment, it’s clear an increasing number of the new workforce won’t be able to protect themselves when things go wrong.
Strengthening workers’ ability to organise for better rights and protections
The issues faced by the new insecure workforce often seem like a ghoulish revival of the problems people first formed trade unions to fight against . No control over working time, low pay, and little access to protection are issues that unions have been forced to tackle throughout the decades – and are still tackling today – as the success of Unite organising an insecure work force at Sports Direct, and of GMB in winning new rights for Uber drivers has shown.
The review must look at how to strengthen union’s ability to organise in the sectors where working people need them most.
Guaranteeing that hard won rights can actually be realised
The government’s new director of Labour Market Enforcement – due to be appointed in the new year – has a key role to play in cracking down on non-compliance with existing rights, including the minimum wage.
But if it’s serious about reform, the review will also look at employment tribunal fees which are currently pricing workers out of justice; new rights will be of little benefit to working people if they can’t afford to ensure that they are enforced.