The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was published last week and was meant to address the issues that have arisen over the last few years as a result of what is being called the gig economy.
Businesses across a number of industries have become increasingly dependant on new staffing models; relying on zero hours workers and labelling (often incorrectly) many individuals as self-employed.
It was estimated recently by the Resolution Foundation that there are almost 1 million UK workers engaged on zero hour’s contracts and the Office for National Statistics report that almost 5 million people are self employed.
The government ordered this review last year saying that they were ‘determined to build an economy that works for everyone’ but has it addressed the uncertainty faced by the millions of people who often don’t know from one week to the next whether they are going have any paid work?
Employment law experts welcome some of what is mooted in the review but are largely disappointed by many of the proposals and see the review as a missed opportunity to provide job security and equality of treatment to those who don’t (or can’t) work within the traditional employer/employee model.
The headline suggestion (that the three different categories of status remain but that workers now be called dependent contractors) has received a lot of media attention but this is surely just window dressing; a rose by any other name will be still as thorny? What will changing the name of this category of staff actually achieve other than a drafting headache for practitioners and civil servants?
Some of the reports other recommendations include:
- Updating existing employment legislation to ensure that the principles around status that have developed through case law in the last decade are properly enshrined in law – but only if the Government believes those principles are still determinative;
- Consider increasing the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for hours that are not guarantee;
- Amend the law so that workers who are allocated work through an app will not have to be paid NMW when they are logged on when no work is available;
- Extend the right to receive a written statement of terms to workers and require such statements to be given on day one of the employment/engagement;
- Create a stand alone right to compensation if a written statement of terms isn’t given;
- Give those in zero hours contracts the right to request guaranteed hours after 12 months;
- Allow holiday pay to be ‘rolled up’ – that is allowing workers to be paid a higher hourly rate to include an amount for holiday pay;
- Reform the right to statutory sick pay (SSP) so that it becomes a basic employment right but make payment dependant on having at least six months service;
- Allow an individual to bring an Employment Tribunal claim to determine their status without charging a fee and allowing them to do so as a preliminary issue before any substantive claim is issued;
- Place the burden in an Employment Tribunal claim of proving status on the company; and
- Make the process of enforcing Employment Tribunal awards easier and ‘name and shame’ employers that do not pay.
The review concludes with seven steps towards ‘fair and decent work with realistic scope for development and fulfilment’ which contain great soundbites including:
- …good and plentiful work can and should go together. Good work is something for which Government needs to be held accountable but for which we all need to take responsibility;
- The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance; good management and strong employment relations within the organisation; and
- The same basic principles should apply to all forms of employment in the British economy.
How (or even if) these laudable statements will impact the workplace remains to be seen.