Matthew Taylor, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, will lead an independent review into modern employment practices, Theresa May has announced.
Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), said it was “very encouraging” that the Prime Minister had asked him to chair the review, which will cover issues such as zero hours contracts and the gig economy.
“New forms of employment have many advantages for workers and consumers but there are challenges and risks. We need to approach this issue with an open mind, recognising that within our flexible system of employment the same type of contract can have a diverse range of impacts on the people who use them.
“That the Prime Minister has chosen to prioritise the interests of the growing army of people working in new ways sends an important message.
“As well as getting to grips with the key trends and issues, I intend for the review team to get out and about across Britain hearing at first hand how people’s experience of work affects their daily lives.”
The review, which will take six months, will address six key themes:
Security, pay and rights
- To what extent do emerging business practices put pressure on the trade-off between flexible labour and benefits such as higher pay or greater work availability, so that workers lose out on all dimensions?
- To what extent does the growth in non-standard forms of employment undermine the reach of policies like the national living wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions auto-enrolment, sick pay, and holiday pay?
Progression and training
- How can we facilitate and encourage professional development within the modern economy to the benefit of both employers and employees?
The balance of rights and responsibilities for new business models
- Do current definitions of employment status need to be updated to reflect new forms of working created by emerging business models, such as on-demand platforms?
- Could we learn lessons from alternative forms of representation around the world, for example the Freelancers Union in New York, which focuses on access to health insurance, or the California App-based Drivers Association (CADA), which lobbies companies like Uber on behalf of drivers?
- How can we harness modern employment to create opportunities for groups currently underrepresented in the labour market (the elderly, those with disabilities or care responsibilities)?
New business models
- How can government – nationally or locally – support a diverse ecology of business models enhancing the choices available to investors, consumers and workers?
Writing in the Guardian, Taylor said that around six million people are not covered by the standard suite of workplace rights. “Worryingly, that number continues to grow, and it shows how rapidly changing business models and working practices are continually stretching the limits of our employment rules.
“This is not to say that we need to rip up existing models; current employment rules do work for the majority of people…The question isn’t how we reduce flexibility, but how we can make it work for more people.”