A review that was supposed to improve workers’ rights has instead given approval to insecurity. One union leader said “It’s no good. It won’t work and it isn’t a plan.
The government’s response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was announced on Wednesday.
Good Work, the title of the document which outlines the response, is full of fudges.
Bosses wanted the government to maintain the “flexible” work relationship at the heart of the gig economy—bogus self-employment—intact. And it has.
The response argues that “many credit the flexibility of the UK’s labour market for the current strong performance in employment”.
That sets the context for whatever benefits for workers might be included in Good Work.
The main concession the report makes to workers is that parts of it relate to clarifying the relationship between workers and bosses.
It will seek to introduce legislation to “ensure all workers receive important information, in a clear format and from day one” about their employment status.
But peppered throughout Good Work are get-out clauses such as, “Many of the plans and proposals outlined in this response require further consultation”.
The Industrial Workers of Great Britain union has been fighting against bogus self-employment through organising Deliveroo riders and Uber drivers. Its general secretary, Dr Jason Moyer-Lee, sent a letter to business secretary Greg Clarke on Wednesday. In it he described the Tories’ response to the Taylor Review as “an exercise in kicking the problem into the long grass.”
That’s true. The government’s report is full of equivocations that play into the bosses’ hands.
It claims it will, along with trade unions and bosses, “agree the best measures to evaluate the level of good work in the UK economy. We will use these measures to report annually on the quality of work in the UK economy, and to hold ourselves to account.”
Bosses greeted the announcement with fanfare.
Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "This could be the biggest shake-up of employment law in generations.
Trade union leaders viewed it sceptically.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, "The government's good work plan looks set to fall at the first hurdle. It's no good, it won't work and it isn't a plan.”
Fighting back will take more than releasing pithy press releases though.
Workers have been shouting about the state of “jobs’ market” for years. Part time work and zero hours contracts are on the rise and are what the Tories mean when they talk of flexibility.
A shocking example of the “flexibility” bosses want came last month. Driver for delivery firm DPD Don Lane died of diabetes after previously being fined £150 for attending a hospital appointment. He missed three hospital appointments after this.
The Good Work report does not challenge such brutal working conditions.
Currently there exists three employment statuses—employee, worker and self-employed. Employees have full statutory rights, workers few and the self-employed practically none.
The Taylor Review recommended a new status to replace that of worker—dependant contractor—with more of the entitlements of employees.
The government’s response to this weak measure was to say, “The review’s finding that for most people the current employment status framework works well, and accepts that for some it does not provide the certainty and clarity that they need.”
In submissions to the Taylor Review trade unions had argued that the estimated 1.8 million people in bogus self-employment should be given worker status.
Alongside its response to the Taylor Review the government is launching four consultations into employment status, increasing transparency in the labour market, agency workers and the enforcement of employment rights. These will farm out problems and kick them further down the road.
“The announcement is big on grandiose claims,” said Moyer-Lee. It is “light on substance and contains a couple of good but modest proposals, as well as a couple of terrible ones.”
Neil Carberry of bosses’ organisation the Confederation of British Industry said, "Firms will be keen to play their part in promoting greater awareness of employee rights.”
If bosses are reacting like that to the Tories big announcement on employment rights, it’s not good news for workers.