Matthew Taylor’s review of modern employment practices is published today, outlining seven key principles for “good quality work for all”.
The independent review, some details of which were leaked widely over the weekend, urges employers to stop creating “bad work” opportunities that are “insecure, exploitative and controlling”.
Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, proposes that the employment status “worker” should be renamed “dependent contractor”, but how that is defined should remain unchanged.
He has recommended, however, that it is made clearer how organisations should distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed.
He adds that employers should offer additional protections for dependent contractors and that there should be stronger incentives for companies to treat them fairly.
Companies that have a “controlling and supervisory” relationship with workers should have to offer them a range of benefits, including paying national insurance contributions.
The review acknowledges that, while platform-based working (typically based on technology platforms where consumers hire people’s services, such as Uber) can be a way to work flexibly for many people, dependent contractors can fall victim to “one-sided flexibility”, hence the need for additional protection.
Taylor was commissioned by the Government to write the report nine months ago as concerns grew over the stability of some forms of “gig economy” working, typified by companies such as Uber and Deliveroo.
There have already been a number of cases where individuals who work for these companies, among others, have been deemed to have “worker” status and are therefore eligible for basic worker rights such as the national minimum wage as well as sick pay and holiday pay.
Taylor lists his seven principles for “fair and decent work” as follows:
- that the “national strategy for work” should have the explicit goal of good work for all. Government is accountable but businesses also need to embrace responsibility;
- worker status should be renamed dependent contractor status and it should be made easier to distinguish between these individuals and those who are genuinely self-employed;
- employment law and the way it is enforced should help companies make the right choices and enable individuals to know and exercise their rights;
- good corporate governance and strong employer relations, not more employment law, are the best way to achieve better work;
- everyone should feel they have “realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects”, whether through formal learning or on-the-job activities;
- organisations should take a more proactive approach towards workplace health, given that “the shape and content of work” and wellbeing are closely related; and
- employers in different sectors should form sectoral strategies to ensure individuals do not get stuck at national living wage level and are able to progress in their careers.
Announcing the publication of the review, Taylor said: “Despite the impact of the national living wage and tax credits, there will always be people who are in work but finding it hard to make ends meet. Our social contract with those people should include dignity at work and the realistic scope to progress in the labour market.
“Bad work – insecure, exploitative, controlling – is bad for health and wellbeing, something that generates cost for vulnerable individuals but also for wider society.
“As many business leaders recognise, low quality work and weak management is implicated in our productivity challenge. Improving the quality of work should be an important part of our productivity strategy.
“Technology – like robotics and machine learning – is going to have a big impact on jobs and the tasks that make up those jobs. As we seize these technological opportunities – as we must – we should do so with the aim of making working lives better, taking away the drudgery and leaving the human contact and creativity that machines can’t provide.
“If we want citizens who are engaged, responsible, active, who – to coin a phrase – ‘take back control’ we should encourage those same virtues in the workplace. Our idea of what it is to be a respected citizen should not stop at the office or factory door.”
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, said that the issue was one of enforcement, rather than with the employment law we currently have.
He said: “Unscrupulous employers are ignoring the rights which workers already have and are not paying their fair share of taxes.
“Anything short of a wholesale crackdown of exploitation of working people, and avoiding tax, in the name of creating a modern world of work is unacceptable and will be seen by working people as a smoke screen for the status quo while bosses carry on as normal.”
Some reports suggest the review, published later today, will also call for changes to cash-in-hand work to minimise tax avoidance, by recommending these jobs are paid for via credit card, contactless payments or PayPal.
This article is being updated.