UK bosses split over government’s Good Work Plan response to the Taylor Review

12 min read

07 February 2018

Former deputy editor

The Taylor Review was launched in July 2017 and a response from the government has been awaited since. Now it’s arrived, bosses are split over the outcome.

Many leaders at the time had a response to the Taylor Review back in summer when it was revealed, but official feedback and measures from the government, in what could effectively transform the workplace, have been a work in progress.

The world of work has changed with the modern world, as developments such as the gig economy, zero hours and so on have all become commonplace. This brought about the Taylor Review – an independent study with recommendations for the government to promote fairer employment laws and working practices.

In response to the Taylor Review at the time, prime minister Theresa May declared: “The issues it confronts go right to the heart of the government’s agenda and right to the heart of our values as a people.”

Matthew Taylor, who was assigned the project by May, considered seven key principles when producing his review, which he billed as “seven steps towards fair and decent work with realistic scope for development and fulfilment.”

He addressed key themes such as quality of work, progression, wellbeing, productivity, technology, engagement and responsibility.

“Our national performance on the quantity of work is strong. But quantity alone is not enough for a thriving economy and fair society. We believe now is the time to complement that commitment to creating jobs with the goal of creating better jobs,” Taylor said.

In his weekly Real Business column, entrepreneur Charlie Mullins gave his response to the Taylor Review and said that after being sued, it had “been a long time coming”. “I hope that some distinction of the modern economy can come from this report, which has been nine months in the making,” he said.

With the government response to the Taylor Review now here in the form of what has been named the Good Work plan, it’s claimed reforms are “a vital part of the Industrial Strategy”.

The Good Work plan is to protect the rights of workers, with steps to investigate the sectors aren’t paying interns doing the jobs of employees, naming and shaming employers that don’t pay tribunal fees and upping the rate of tribunal fines fourfold for those companies acting with malice.

Elsewhere in response to the Taylor Review, the government’s plan also looks to ensure staff are paid fairly. This will involve measures such as providing agency workers breakdowns of payment, fixed costs and fees.

“Transparency in the business environment” will also be fostered by giving awareness to mothers of workplace rights and their employers, promotion of Shared Parental Leave and developing a task force for the right to request flexible working.

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All of this will be executed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in partnership with the business community, unions and experts, according to the government.

“We recognise the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes, enhancing the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business,” said May.

Offering his own response to the Taylor Review, business secretary Greg Clark said: “The Taylor Review said that the current approach to employment is successful but that we should build on that success, in preparing for future opportunities.

“The Good Work plan puts the UK at the front of the pack in addressing the challenges and opportunities of modern ways of working, it is an important part of the Industrial Strategy and will enhance our business environment as one of the best places to work, invest and do business.”

Bosses remained divided over the government’s response to the Taylor Review, however, and shared thoughts of their own on the Good Work plan steps.

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, said:

“We welcome the commitment that the government has made to increasing quality work. Written statements of day one rights should include information about parental rights so that the UK’s 11 million working mothers and fathers are never in the dark about what they are entitled to.

“It is only rogue employers who have anything to fear from the proposals to ensure those found to have flouted the law at a tribunal pay the price.”

Continue on the next page, for the remaining thoughts from fsix UK leaders on the government response to the Taylor Review, which aren’t all positive.

Seb Maley, Qdos Contractor CEO, said:

“We welcome any move to protect gig economy workers, who in many cases need such rights. But it’s important not to confuse these workers with independent contractors who in the past believe they would benefit from a tax rethink instead.

“In many cases, contractors command higher day rates than gig economy workers, and would prefer the very apparent failings around IR35 and the way the self-employed are taxed was readdressed. To assume all contractors are vulnerable workers would be a mistake and shows a lack of understanding into the different needs of the UK’s diverse self-employed population.”

Helen Crossland, employment law partner at Seddons, said:

“Following the Taylor Review, a significant commitment by the government was expected to bring our employment laws in line with modern working practices. The measures announced today, however, are in reality, rather hollow.

“They only relate to gig economy workers, and not workers generally – including those on casual/zero hours contracts – and it is only being proposed gig economy workers get holiday and sickness entitlements. Despite the headlines nothing has actually happened yet.”

Stephen Woods, UK spokesperson for workforce management tool, Deputy, said:

“This is only the beginning of what will prove to be a turbulent path for businesses employing a large and varied workforce. Changing contracts will spell complexity and cost if not managed smoothly. While there are businesses out there that have embraced new tools for managing the workforce and delivering more transparency, there are thousands that will find themselves in danger if they don’t adapt to better support their employees.

“The new plans will require increased investment from firms in tracking critical HR functions such as holiday entitlements and sick pay. The government was light on how the plans will be enforced, but it did highlight that certain employment tribunal fines will be quadrupled to £20,000. It is the employees who help make companies so successful, so it is only right that they have the protections needed to give them reassurance and protection in the workplace.”

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Julian Sansum, employment partner at PwC, said:

“The entrepreneurship of the UK labour market provides a strong competitive edge that must be maintained as Brexit approaches. The Good Work Plan looks to address issues that are clearly in need of attention and it is encouraging that the government has launched consultations on four key areas. This provides business with the opportunity to feed into the process, allowing any change to be implemented practically without disrupting the economy.”

Melanie Stancliffe, employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, said:

“Some recommendations in the Taylor Review, such as requiring pay slips for all workers, are easy to implement and it is encouraging that the government has reacted positively to these.

“There is, however, no indication when changes will be made.  The more complicated issues such as determining or redefining the status and rights of gig workers will be subject to future consultations so, at best, we are all at the start of a long process of change in the law. This still leaves a lot of uncertainty.”

Nick Hobden, partner and head of employment at Thomson Snell & Passmore, said:

“The government’s commitment to tackling the difficult issue of a gig economy in a modern society, in a way that enables the law to reflect and support the demands in the digital age of transport and fast food sectors, whilst protecting some basic rights of those engaged in them are a step in the right direction. But there is no clear appetite to accept all the recommendations of the Taylor Review.

“The most significant recommendations in the Taylor Review, for example the introduction of a ‘dependent worker’ status for gig economy workers and changes to how employees enforce their rights, have been put out to consultation so it may be some time before these sectors see any concrete changes. For now tribunals and courts will continue to try and grapple with the legal concepts of worker and independent contractor for some time to come.”