The Taylor Review offers clear guidance in this current climate of uncertainty: employers need flexible and agile workers, and in reality there are a variety of work arrangements that suit both the individuals and business.
Matthew Taylor addresses the balance required between workers’ rights and security. Businesses of all sizes must consider workers’ rights and entitlements, and are already on notice, especially after a number of recent tribunal judgements on unfair treatment and exploitation.
Zero-hour contracts and the gig economy have a mixed reception in the media, but it’s not a new phenomenon – casual work has been around for decades. I believe zero-hours should not be automatically perceived as negative without considering the business offering them and the individual’s circumstances.
Some contracts allow businesses to account for surges in demand, offer work without obligation for the employee, and enable workers to set their own hours. For this reason, they are often attractive to students, semi-retired individuals, or for anyone who is looking for employment outside of a structured 9-5.
However, there is a line between flexibility and exploitation. The review makes moves in the right direction with its suggestion of statutory sick pay and holiday pay for all, and the right to request a contract after 12 months of continued employment. What Taylor does not directly address is how the employer should meet these recommendations.
I agree with Taylor’s rejection of the current three-tier worker definition (employees, workers, contractors) and I welcome this step in accepting the variety of employment statuses that now exist.
The new term “dependent contractor” does not necessarily represent the employment spectrum adequately, but it does incorporate people who are not truly self-employed but rather experience the burden of set contracts. It sets the tone for the next generation of agile businesses that understand employees now want flexibility in their work, as well as basic employment rights.
While the review makes positive steps in saying protection should be provided in all worker situations, there is little in the way of a practical outline of how this will work. There is the proposal to have a free initial adjudication to assess employment status, but there are still questions. What is the timeframe for a status assessment? How will “dependent contractors” be assessed? Will gig economy workers on a high hourly rate be differentiated from those receiving minimum wage? It will be my job to work with businesses, largely SMEs, to guide employers on best practice and practical implementation of these recommendations.
Much has been said about the companies that have sparked criticism for the way they treat their gig economy workers. Deliveroo in particular has come under fire – drivers at the moment do not have rights of sick pay, so if they have an accident when delivering your takeaway, they will not be able to work and earn. The chief executive recently said he wanted to offer workers’ rights, but cannot because of the law.
This rings rather hollow, as some lateral thinking could have resulted in flexible solutions, such as an insurance model. The Taylor Review will hopefully put pressure on organisations to act fairly and responsibly.
In addition, now recommendations have been made, consumers have an opportunity to use customer power to effect change and encourage ethical business behaviour.
Unions have been vocal that the report does not go far enough – but I think it ushers in a new era of measured, incremental steps to improve workers’ rights and career opportunities. The report’s shortcomings are its lack of guidelines of how employers can look to implement changes and be aware of associated costs.
Now is the time for organisations to embrace the recommendations and advertise how well they treat those connected to their business.