Last week saw the publication of the Taylor Review, the eagerly anticipated report of UK working practices. The report focused on the gig economy and much of the comment since its publication has concentrated in this area.
The report was commissioned by the Prime Minister in August 2016 to address the growing concerns around the gig economy, zero hour contracts, employment status and other questions raised by the changing nature of the economy. To put these changes in context, the percentage of full time employees as a proportion of total employment has fallen sharply since 2010. Self employment reached a high of 15% in 2016 as people found it difficult to find traditional work after the recession. 900,00 people are on zero hour contracts (many by choice). 1.3 million, 4% of the workforce, work in the gig economy. This has increased due to technological advances where people use apps to find buyers and sellers. According to CIPD around 60% of these workers are permanent employees looking to top up their income and they expect this trend to increase.
Taylor emphasises early in the report the need for greater balance between flexibility and fairness in the gig economy and that for too long employers have been shifting all the risk onto the workers.
The main recommendations of the report are as follows;
- Clearer legislation on employment status – rename ‘worker’ status to ‘dependent contractor’. This is designed to prevent people being wrongly classified as self-employed and allow people to become more aware of their employment status and what rights they deserve.
- Introduction of piece rates, provided that employers can demonstrate that a person working averagely hard clears the minimum wage.
- Statement of Employment Particulars for all, not just employees.
- Right to request fixed hours for all.
- Strategies should be put in place to ensure workers do not get stuck on the National Living Wage and can progress.
- Employers should not face increased ‘non-wage’ costs when employing a person (such as the apprentice levy).
The response to the report has been mixed, which is to be expected from a publication of this nature that goes right to the heart of political ideology. Generally, those who support the advancement of employment rights believe it doesn’t go far enough and businesses give the recommendations a cautious welcome but want to see how it will work in practice. Peter Cheese the Chief Executive of CIPD says that the report has the potential to change the way we work in this county and welcomes Taylor’s view that emphasis should be put on quality and not quantity of work. He also welcomed the call for greater clarity of employment status and to provide details for terms and conditions for all workers as well as employees.
On the other hand, Frances O’ Grady of the TUC was more critical. She stated that she wanted the report to be bolder and it was not the game changer that was needed. She believes that the right to request guaranteed hours is, in effect, no right at all and attacked the suggestion piece rates. However, she did welcome the reports suggestion of equal pay for agency staff and sick leave for the low paid and encouraged the government to implement these recommendations quickly.
Neil Carberry of the CBI encourages the government to focus not simply on introducing new laws but do all it can to encourage good practice and support the link between good relations and higher productivity. He stated that there would be a number of concerns for businesses including changes to the minimum wage, the rewriting of employment status, and changes to agency worker rules.
Jason Moyer-Lee, General Secretary of the IWGB union was scathing in his assessment of the report calling wishy washy and full of fluff. He criticised the 4-person panel pointing out that one was a former investor in Deliveroo and another was an employment lawyer who advised businesses on employee relations and also attacked the panel for not including any trade union or worker representatives. Also unconvinced, is Guardian columnist Owen Jones who is particularly dismissive of the piece wage proposal, saying that this could result in gig economy workers losing pay if the likes of Uber or Deliveroo drivers are stuck in traffic and therefore cannot fulfil their quota of jobs.
It is claimed by many that the ‘casual economy’ is responsible for keeping unemployment rates low but also leaves workers without a reliable salary and does not provide the Treasury with the correct level of revenue. There is a great deal of work left to do to resolve many of the issues considered by the Review and for many of the proposals put forward, more specific actions require to be identified.