On the morning of 7 February 2018 the Government announced proposals to address issues derived from the Taylor report, which was published during 2017. Taylor addressed issues relevant to modern workplaces and also modern work practices, which included the issues arising from the work undertaken within the gig economy and for those working on zero hours contracts.
In previous blogs I have addressed the points arising from the Taylor report and on a fairly regular basis I have considered some of the practical concerns arising for those working in the gig economy, not least the absence of any formal employment status which would allow them to access employment rights, such as the right not to be unfairly dismissed. Legal claims involving Uber and other “employers” have in the main favoured the workers in determining that those doing the work are at least employed under a relevant contract to be able to access certain rights, such as an entitlement to paid holidays.
The Government is now consulting further about proposals to implement aspects of the Taylor “Good Work Report”, but from an employment law perspective the proposal are underwhelming.
The Government has issued a press release which focuses upon the following points:-
- A proposal to introduce a right to request a more stable contract for all workers, including those working on a zero hours contract. The concept of a stable contract is not one known to UK employment lawyers.
- To assist workers in enforcing rights associated with absence due to sickness and whilst on holiday. Once again, a concept of assisting in terms of enforcement may not be of much practical benefit for individuals working across the country.
- To introduce a scheme for employers to be subject to a sanction if they do not pay an award from an Employment Tribunal, by having them named and shamed. I have in mind that this may be the same type of scheme which applies when businesses are identified on a national register if they do not pay the National Living Wage. Once again, I am not sure of the practical benefit for this for the person still awaiting compensation.
- To make sure that new and expectant mothers know their rights. I have would have thought that a better option would have been to make it easier to enforce those rights, for example by simplifying Tribunal procedure associated with maternity/sex discrimination claims and to have greater deterrent for employers, when they know that apart from those who are in a trade union it is very difficult for an individual to even secure legal assistance in pursuing what is always a difficult and technical claim.
- To ask the Low Pay Commission to consider introducing a higher rate for the national minimum wage for workers on zero hours contracts. As a proposal asking a third party body to consider something seems to me to be fairly vague.
- When considering other more concrete plans, the Government has not made proposals, instead it has launched four separate consultations seeking views on proposed legislation dealing with:-
- Enforcement of recommendations made by Taylor in relation to employment rights.
- Protecting agency workers.
- Measures to increase transparency in the UK labour market.
- Employment status.
Arguably the last four points identified above are the most important and I would say that the last point is the most important, dealing with employment status. As I have identified in the past, most employment rights derive from having the status of an employee and one way to level the playing field is to ensure that rights are available for all individuals undertaking work irrespective of formal status. So much of employment law derives from the status of the contract, which in reality is a historic labour law concept derived from the law according to the relationship between a master and servant. If the Taylor Report has taught us anything, it is that modern employment law practices are evolving quickly and do not associate easily with the law of the past. Once again it seems to me that the Government has missed an opportunity to take hold of this legal area and to ensure that all of those working, both employers and employees, understand their rights and obligations and have mechanisms available to ensure that such rights can be enforced.
No doubt there will be further developments as the consultations take place, and we must now await the formal proposals to back up the points made at this stage through the press release.