Good Work for All

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, was commissioned by Theresa May to look at the implications of new forms of work on worker rights and responsibilities, as well as on employer freedoms and obligations.

This is what Taylor had to say about the scope of his review “all work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment.”

Good work matters:

  • Because, despite the important contribution of the living wage and the benefit system, fairness demands that we ensure people, particularly those on lower incomes, have routes to progress in work, with the opportunity to boost their earning power, and are treated with respect and decency at work.
  • Because, while having employment is itself vital to people’s health and well-being, the quality of people’s work is also a major factor in helping people to stay healthy and happy, something which benefits them and serves the wider public interest.
  • Because better designed work that gets the best out of people can make an important contribution to tackling our complex challenge of low productivity.
  • Because we should, as a matter of principle, want the experience of work to match the aspirations we have for modern citizenship; that people feel they are respected, trusted and enabled and expected to take responsibility.
  • Because the pace of change in the modern economy, and particularly in technology and the development of new business models, means we need a concerted approach to work which is both up to date and responsive and based on enduring principles of fairness.

The report is available on the Government website, whether his recommendations will be implemented in the current climate is a moot point.

The gig economy

A key problem identified by Taylor in the UK labour market is the lack of “worker voice” inside many companies – many people feel powerless at work.

The gig economy was a theme that Taylor was expected to investigate and he suggests that there is a perception that the gig economy puts too much power into the hand of employers: "Of all the issues that were raised with us as we went around the country, the one that came through most strongly was what the report calls one-sided flexibility”.

The review suggests ways to try to stop employers from pushing risk on to workers’ shoulders. Taylor told the FT he was mulling the idea of forcing companies to pay a premium wage on zero hours contracts for hours not guaranteed in advance. However, he has also said he does not want to discourage the “two-way flexibility” that workers value.

Taylor does not attack the gig economy because he recognises that flexibility in the workplace is important and has contributed to our current high employment levels. He does, however, suggest that too many employers and businesses rely on zero hours, short-hours or agency contracts, when they could be more forward thinking in their workforce planning.

Employers and employees alike value flexibility and a survey by PwC, anticipating the Taylor Review, suggested more people would consider gig work or a zero-hours contract if they had better protection. While 77 per cent of people would prefer full-time employment, more than two-thirds of those polled said stronger employment rights would encourage them to try gig roles, their main concerns being around low pay, poor job security, and a lack of benefits such as holiday and sick pay.

Development opportunities

Taylor doesn’t shy away from the big issues and makes some recommendations around training and development that have not attracted much attention. We know that employee engagement is enhanced when employees feel they have opportunities for career progression and personal development and Taylor bears this out:

“It is vital to individuals and the health of our economy that everyone feels they have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects and that they can, from the beginning to the end of their working life, record and enhance the capabilities developed in formal and informal learning and in on the job and off the job activities.”

With a finger on the pulse Matthew Taylor suggested that the Government should look at reducing the cost of employment tribunal fees; a matter of weeks after the publication of his report these tribunal fees were ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. While this will not be universally welcomed by employers the BBC quoted an employment lawyer, Karen Jackson, who said: "I don't know an employment lawyer who didn't think it was wrong to have fees. We all felt that morally it was the wrong thing to do as a barrier to justice."

The main recommendations of the report:

  • People who work for platform-based companies, such as Deliveroo and Uber, be classed as dependent contractors
  • Strategies should be put in place to ensure that workers do not get stuck on the National Living Wage
  • A national strategy should ensure good work for all "for which government needs to be held accountable"
  • The government should avoid further increasing the non-wage costs of employing a person, such as the apprenticeship levy


Posted: Saturday 2 September 2017

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