The Taylor Review in relation to employment rights has been published by the Government and after so much analysis and predictions, the headline on the morning of publication concerned a proposal to try to stop people paying for services through cash in hand. My view is that the Review represents a missed opportunity in many respects and appears to involve a greater interest in the generation of receipts of income tax and NI.
So much of the employment law debate over the last year has involved the gig economy issues, such as the Uber drivers, and case law such as the claims involving Pimlico Plumbers. I was in a taxi recently in South London and went past the Pimlico Plumbers office, a bit like passing a famous sports stadium for an employment lawyer.
In fact the Taylor proposals for gig workers are far behind those published in the recent Labour Party manifesto. The provision of a non-fee based on line tool for workers to clarify employment status really misses the point about the need for clear rules on employment status, the extension of employment rights to all workers (however defined) and for rights to arise at day one of work. I still turn away many people who have less than two years of service, who are unable to complain about very poor treatment simply because of their length of service. Employers can dismiss workers having followed no proper procedure, knowing that their actions are not open to any challenge.
The Taylor proposal to enhance the rights of agency workers and those on zero hours contracts after 12 months appear to be an effort to compromise and not to upset either side of industry. The law has evolved to allow two tier workforces standing side by side, and if the contract terms are allowed to dictate rights, it will never address the problems encountered by many workers. The lack of certainty over work hours and status will never be addressed on a voluntary basis by employers, and if we have understood anything from the last forty years, it must be that improvement of worker rights only arises from legislation, e.g. National Minimum Wage, paid leave and anti-discrimination laws.
Taylor has commented upon improving knowledge of rights and extending the law relating to the right to information and consultation about events in the workplace. Sadly, this focus for the report will have little relevance for most workers. If individuals work in a non-unionised workplace, I do not expect conditions to improve because of an improvement in the technical right to information about the plans of the employer. Statistically, the best way to improve conditions at work is through collective bargaining and having the ability to call on a recognised trade union for representation and support, including legal support before an Employment Tribunal.
Finally, what of the gig economy. As indicated above, we could be led to believe that everyone is a gig worker and that it is the only issue of importance in employment law. In reality, as an employment law solicitor I have not been asked to advise on gig issues at all. Workers need clear rules on their status, on the hours they work and on the pay they will earn. They need enforceable rights from day one, with assistance to enforce the rights which is affordable and accessible, knowing that if they succeed the court system will allow them to enforce the remedy. A report which addresses these points would be of greater relevance for those I represent.