Taylor Review: UK should end gig economy and reduce cost of employment tribunal fees

A government review into the employment of the UK’s “gig economy” workers has called for better quality jobs and “dignity at work”.

The Taylor Review, headed up by Tony Blair’s former advisor and chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts Matthew Taylor, sets out a number of recommendations to “protect” people working for gig economy companies such as Uber and Deliveroo.

Mr Taylor made the comments as his nine month-long review – ordered by Theresa May’s administration in her first days of office –laid out seven principles for “fair and decent work” in Britain and recommended a crack down on “insecure” and “exploitative” conditions.

“The review calls on the government to adopt the ambition that all work should be fair and decent with scope for fulfilment and development,”

“Bad work – insecure, exploitative, controlling – is bad for health and wellbeing, something that generates cost for vulnerable individuals, but also for wider society.

“Improving the quality of work should be an important part of our productivity strategy,”

Taylor also recommended that  government officials should look at reducing the cost of employment tribunal fees.

Critics say that employment tribunal fees prevent employees from enforcing their rights and taking bosses who violate employment law to court due to the cost.

“What we’re suggesting is that there will be a new free process of employment tribunal where anyone can find out what their status is. We’re saying everyone should be able to have a free judgement on whether or not they have those rights in the first place before they proceed with the case.” 

Pressed again on whether people will still have to pay the tribunal fees, he added:

“Yes. We recognise in the report that like a lot of people, including employment organisations, that it would be better if those fees weren’t so high and we encourage the Government to continue to look at that issue.” 
 Under the current system, claim fees for unpaid wages, redundancy pay and breach of contract can set a worker back £160 plus an additional £230 for a hearing fee. For other claims, such as unfair dismissal, equal pay, discrimination and whistle blowing, the claim fee is £250 plus £950 for the hearing.

Furthermore, Taylor also rejected calls to recommend the Government bans zero hours contracts in his review because it was “clear that many people work zero hours choose to work that way because it suits them”.

The report also argues for a move away from the “cash in hand” part of the economy to a situation where it becomes more normal to pay tradesmen through digital platforms.

This could help to crack down on practices that lose the economy about £6.2bn a year, Mr Taylor said.

Taylor also discussed including a new category of worker called a “dependent contractor” to be created to bolster rights to sick and holiday pay to address the situation of freelance and temporary workers who work irregular hours and do not enjoy the same protections of those categorised as employees of a company.

“In the end, that has to be decided by the courts, but we’re arguing for new legislation and I think the implication of what we are saying is pretty clearly that we support the direction that the courts are going in.

“Which is to say that if those models remain as they are, then probably those people will be defined as workers, they will get minimum wage, holiday pay and sickness pay.” 

But the report does not demand a blanket minimum wage – much to the annoyance of unions and employment laywers –  instead it recommends an opt-in flexible system with companies having to pay at least the minimum wage in exchange for a contractor working during busy periods

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development:

The Taylor Review has the potential to change how we look at the future of work, which is about quality of work and not simply quantity. Translating the ambition into practice has an added importance given some of the additional challenges we face in the UK, from access to skills to labour market regulation post Brexit.

“However, changing regulation is not the silver bullet that will fix the problems with the world of work. Businesses need to take greater responsibility for the quality of work, opportunities for progression, and fair treatment of all their workers. The review rightly highlights the need for wider changes to boost the number of people in better paid, better quality work, such as enhancing the enforcement of existing standards, improving the quality of careers advice and guidance, boosting life-long learning and making the apprenticeship levy more flexible. We welcome plans to strengthen labour market oversight, including greater transparency and reporting, as well as a bigger role for the Low Pay Commission and joint working and co-ordination between institutions.”

“Crucially, Taylor stresses that the best way to improve the quality of work is through effective corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within organisations and flags the need to boost productivity and job quality through working more closely with low pay employers and sectors. It is vital the Government develops these ideas as part of industrial strategy to ensure that the Taylor Review has lasting impact on work quality in the UK.”

 

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