The increase in self-employment over the last few years plus the rise of the ‘gig economy’ has seen an increasing debate about the pros and the cons of these so-called atypical working arrangements. A key issue has been employment status and rights because many people are not clear on what rights they are entitled to, and even some employers are not clear on their obligations and, in the worst cases, people end up being exploited.
That’s why the government commissioned Matthew Taylor to review modern working practices, a review which made 53 individual recommendations to help tackle abuses of employment rights, provide greater clarity on employers’ obligations and close loopholes.
On 7 February 2018, the government formally responded to that review and revealed they would take action on 52 of the 53 recommendations. The response is a positive step in protecting and enhancing the rights of workers, as well as ensuring our system remains flexible and innovative. Some actions are immediate, such as legislation to ensure that every employee, including casual and zero-hours workers, are entitled to written terms and conditions and a payslip from day one. This will help ensure that workers know how much they are being paid, for what hours and also know what their rights are in terms of holiday and sick pay, giving much needed transparency for people.
But there is still much more work to do. The fact that the government has launched four more consultations, including one on the crucial issue of employment status, suggests that these discussions will be ongoing for awhile. But from its initial response, it is clear that the government is taking the findings from Taylor seriously, and is looking to respond in a way that ensures the UK keeps it flexible labour market, while making every effort to improve employee rights and root out abuse.
Ben Willmott is head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)