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Taylor Review - 'The Good Work Plan'

The Government today published its long awaited response to last years Taylor Review. The ‘Good Work plan’ professes to introduce a range of new rights for workers, coupled with enforcement of existing rights, and the Government  claims it goes even further than the proposals of the Taylor Review. But do the proposals have teeth, or is this more bark than bite?

The Taylor Review was commissioned in response to a growing concern over the lack of clarity many workers had on their employment status, as highlighted by the now-infamous “gig economy” cases against Uber and Deliveroo (to name but two). Their report, presented July 2017, was a thorough examination of employment in the UK, and set out a seven point plan to increase clarity for those unsure of their employment status and enable good work to be delivered for those outside of the traditional employment relationship.

The Governments proposed reforms address little of what the Taylor Review suggested. The headline promise of ‘enhanced rights’ is somewhat overstated, given that the only new rights offered for workers are sick pay from day one and the right to a payslip and written terms of contract. Workers already have the right to holiday and some to SSP. While these “new” are pleasant offerings for workers, they are a drop in the ocean when compared to the real issues of uncertainty that the plan was supposed to address. Workers are also promised the right to request a more stable contract if they are currently on flexible contracts, which, without corresponding action to ensure that employers take such requests seriously, seems about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.

One of the key pillars of the Taylor recommendations – greater clarity and reduced complexity on employment status – has been all but ignored. The ‘gig economy’ cases all centred around employees who were thought to be self employed, but actually through the reality of their employment relationship were workers. As Sarah Evans, employment partner at JMW, stated on 5live this morning, there is currently no statutory definition of self employment, and without such a definition many people who could be workers will continue to miss out on rights they do not know they are entitled to. This is a massive missed opportunity for the Government to simplify the overly complicated legislation defining worker status and provide real certainty to those in flexible working situations.

The Government also plans to introduce a name and shame scheme for companies who do not pay Tribunal awards made against them. While this is an issue that needs addressing – around 50% of claimants do not receive the full amount owed to them – quite how this will be more effective than the significant fines already in place is not really explained. In addition, many failures to pay arise from companies that have gone into liquidation; naming a company that no longer exists is unlikely to have much of an effect.

Efforts to enforce existing rights and raise awareness among workers of the rights that they are entitled to will be welcomed, but this is not the forward-looking reform that is really needed to transform flexible working. The rest of the “Good Work plan” is notably woolly; no less than four consultations are promised with no timeframes or specific terms of reference; the Government will “ask” for a higher wage rate for zero-hours workers; they will “consider” repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates. All in all much is promised but little really delivered. The “Good Work plan” is less a plan and more a roadmap to further planning with something to possibly come in the future that may resemble a plan.

Overall, todays proposals will be a significant disappointment to those facing uncertainty over their employment status, and workers in general, who have been let down by the Governments failure to really tackle head on the issues identified by the Taylor Review. Until substantive action is taken, it is likely we will continue to see cases like Uber as workers are forced to clarify their rights in court.


To hear Sarah Evans on BBC Radio 5 Live follow this link 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09qd8dx#play 

 

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