The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices has just been published in the UK. This has taken a sensible view of the way work is evolving and is proposing that legislation should catch up with what is now happening in the real world. We have seen a rapid growth in non-standard working patterns and the introduction of ‘gig working’ using platforms such as Uber. This has resulted in confusion about the status of workers. When are they ‘self employed’ versus being employees of some sort?
The review goes part way to a solution by recommending a ‘dependent contractor’ category fitting between employees and the self-employed. These people would get some of the employment rights currently enjoyed by employees such as holiday pay, sickness benefits and the minimum wage. There would still be genuine self-employed workers but it would reduce the number of people currently treated this way by employers attempting to save money or avoid other commitments.
Importantly the review recognises that a high percentage of people with flexible work patterns are very happy with the arrangements. Many of the ‘gig workers’ are fitting in tasks around their other priorities and do not want conventional employment. This is also true of zero hours contracts, where the report concludes “To ban zero hours contracts in their totality would negatively impact many more people than it helped”.
Ultimately, though, it’s not up to government to create good working environments. They can lay down laws to protect people from exploitation and can insist on some minimum levels of pay and benefits. But it’s up to the leaders and managers to create engaging working cultures and ensure the welfare of their employees. This isn’t just a question of social conscience, it’s good business sense.
As the Taylor Review says “The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation, which is why it is important that companies are seen to take good work seriously and are open about their practices and that all workers are able to be engaged and heard.”