At the beginning and end of the Taylor review on Modern Working practices1, Matthew Taylor and his team set out a 7 step plan for improving the state of work in Britain; this review and its suggestions for government policy and priority will likely have some effect on government policy going forward.
The aim of the 7 step plan is to suggest that, since we have reached a point with the highest employment and lowest unemployment levels since 1975, that we should begin to focus not only on the quantity of work available but also the quality of said work, in order to maximise well-being and employment for the largest amount of people possible.
The First Step – ‘The British Way’
The first step is to establish what they define as ‘The British Way’ as the national strategy for work. Taylor states that good work and plentiful work can and should go together and that the government should be held accountable for ensuring the quality of work alongside ensuring the quantity of it.
Secondly, they suggest that all workers should have an equal baseline of protection, meaning that the same basic principles and rights should apply to all forms of work in the UK economy and that there should always be ways for the individual to progress and improve in the workplace.
Their third suggestion in this category is that taxation of labour should be made more consistent across all forms of employment whilst improving the individual rights of the self-employed. Finally, they state that technological change will heavily impact all forms of work in the coming future, suggesting we must adapt to it as it brings new opportunities and entitlements.
The Second Step – “flexibility in employment”.
They commend platform-based working as it allows for genuine two-way flexibility between employee and employer which isn’t found in other models of employment and is incredibly useful for those who are unable to work conventionally, such as the disabled or carers.
Taylor recommends that more flexibility be introduced into the workplace, this being two-way flexibility where the employer must be flexible as well as the employee where usually it is just the employee who is asked to be flexible.
They also recommend that the employment category ‘Worker’ be renamed to ‘Dependent Contractor’ and the difference between the ‘Dependent Contractor’ and the self-employed become more clear legally. In part, this change has been recommended as it has been a particular area of abuse of power by employers who define their workers as self-employed to reduce costs and risks to their business.
The Third Step – promoting and enforcing the law
The in which the law ‘is promulgated and enforced’ should help firms and companies make the right decisions regarding their employees as well as help employees know and be able to exercise their rights. Taylor and his team suggest that whilst improving workplace practices and conditions is important it is also important to not increase the “employment wedge” (the additional costs associated with taking on an employee) too far as it is already quite high. Taylor notes that the ‘Dependent Contractor’ was the group most at risk of exploitation and most likely to suffer from one-sided flexibility and so they recommend the government increases protection for this group as well as provide stronger incentives for employers to treat them equally.
The Fourth Step – business regulation
Taylor outlines that national regulation is not the best way to achieve better and greater quality work for more people. Instead, Taylor promotes responsible corporate governance which requires, most of all, strong employee relations. Companies should be open and transparent with their practices and every employee should be able to make their voice heard and recognised.
The Fifth Step – progression and improvement of employees
Each individual should feel as if there are real and achievable ways to improve their work prospects via both formal and informal learning as well as on and off the job training.
The Sixth Step – employee health
The assessment that Taylor and his team give is that the natural well-being, physical and mental health are completely interlinked with work performance. They state that in the workplace there is not a proactive enough approach to employee health and this need to change not only for the sake of the employee but also for the business itself as leave due to sickness is a major reason for lost working days. Taylor recommends that the relevant government department finds ways to integrate the well-being of the employee into the workplace.
The Seventh Step – the National Living Wage (‘NLW’)
Finally, Taylor commends the National Living Wage as a “powerful tool to raise the financial base line of low paid workers”. However, the real problem here is that people become stuck at the NLW without chance of being able to progress and achieve higher pay. Taylor recommends the introduction of sectoral strategies that engage employers and employees to make sure that no-one is stuck at the NLW.
At the end of the Review Taylor and his team make three more suggestions:
- “The Government should publicly commit to delivering quality work, making the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responsible for reporting success against a set of metrics on an annual basis, with the first report in 2018 acting as a baseline for measuring future success.”
- “Ensure the forthcoming Industrial Strategy makes the most of the opportunities a more productive workforce can deliver, especially in lower-paid, and lower-skilled sectors, identifying ways in which automation and AI can enhance the quality of work.”
- “The LPC (Low Pay Commission) should have its remit widened so that it can both make recommendations to Government on what needs to change (including NMW rates) to improve the quality of work in the UK. It should also work with employers, employees and stakeholders to promote quality work across all regions and sectors, focusing, on beginning with, on driving productivity in the retail, care and hospitality sectors.”
Oliver Porter, St Peters School, Work Experience Student at rhw Solicitors LLP (under supervision)