The World of Work – Taylor Report (UK 2017) – What is the State of Play?

The World of Work – Taylor Report (UK 2017) – What is the State of Play?

In July 2017, whilst political and media attention was squarely concentrated on Brexit, an important ground breaking review of the world of work was published. The report (entitled “Good Work”) was originally commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had appointed a four person panel to seek solutions to the challenges of poor quality work, modern working practices and to introduce ideas for reform in the age of the gig economy.

Chaired by former Labour Party political strategist and current CEO of the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the panel received extensive formal feedback, including more than 90 comprehensive contributions from thought leading bodies, and numerous public round tables or focus group discussions. Accordingly, the panel were encouraged and inspired by the “positive, constructive and thoughtful responses from people ranging from employment lawyers to gig workers”.

In summary, those responses strongly suggest that the way we work is changing and no longer conforms to the norms that have underpinned much of our taxation, welfare and employment systems. In particular the report identified the following salient characteristics of the UK today:

  • Young adults are often in education or out of work
  • Almost three in ten workers are now aged over 50 (an increase of 50% since 1997)
  • More women are working than ever before
  • More persons work from home than ever before

Nevertheless, the majority (63%) of workers remain in traditional employment – although many often work overtime, whilst others work part-time. About 3.5 million workers want more hours of work.

The following definition of the gig economy was used by the Taylor Review: “The gig economy tends to refer to people using apps to sell their labour. The most commonly used examples are Uber and Deliveroo but there are a growing number of platforms facilitating working in this way …. Currently the Labour Force Survey does not cover these activities and we therefore do not know with any certainty how many people are undertaking gig economy work and whether they are doing so to supplement other work, or substituting employment totally with this type of work.”

With the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimating over 1.3 million gig workers (or 4 percent of all employment) this is a growing challenge for policy makers. The CIPD suggest that close to 58% of gig economy participants are employees making extra money from gig work. This is expected to grow as one in eight working age adults who have not done any gig work over the last 12 months are giving serious thought to joining this new labour market. In particular, one in four 16-30 year olds say that they are considering some form of gig working option in the future.

The full report[1] makes for stimulating reading with both specific measures for change and longer term strategic shifts in thinking. In simple terms it set out an objective of “good work for all” … something that few in the UK would consider automatic or guaranteed in today’s environment.

In the light of their findings, the panel ‘s report provided a seven step set of policy suggestions to improve the lives of working Britons. In brief these were:

  1. Our national strategy for work should apply to all forms of employment
  2. We should distinguish workers from those legitimately self-employed
  3. Law and rules should assist firms to make decisions with certainty
  4. Better work relies on responsible corporate governance and practices
  5. There should be realistic attainable access to formal and informal learning
  6. Recognition that the shape and content of work impacts on well being
  7. The National Living Wage is a floor not a ceiling on remuneration

The report has assisted us at UKPLC to focus our research on some of the key issues presented by the new digital economy and our next blog article will focus on the Taylor Report and the Government’s IR35 reforms. So look out for IR35 and the status of Dependent Contractors.

– by Noel Hadjimichael

[1] Please see the full report: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.

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