Katie Bailey: Does the government’s response to the Taylor Review go far enough to protect workers?

The government’s eagerly awaited and lengthy response to the Taylor Review, which was published in February, has elicited mixed commentary. On the one hand, Matthew Taylor himself has welcomed the fact that virtually all of his recommendations were accepted in principle, and the commitments expressed by the government to improve working conditions and rights for vulnerable workers. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Institute for Employment Studies have supported the government’s aim to promulgate good work and enhance transparency over the terms and conditions of employment.

However, on the other hand, the response has been criticised both for its lack of ambition and for its delay in grappling with some of the fundamental problems underlying the organisation and regulation of work in the modern economy. For example, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has described the proposals as too narrow for not tackling the ongoing failure of some organisations to pay workers for non-contractual working hours, the abuse of zero hours contracts, or the non-disclosure of information about their employment model. The Institute of Directors has stated that the lack of action over the tax treatment of the employed versus the self-employed is a wasted opportunity.

Even the most welcoming of commentaries have noted that, rather than dealing with many of the more substantive issues raised by Taylor now, the government has chosen to commission four further consultations before taking action. We, therefore, have to wait and see what will happen concerning the legal framework underpinning employment rights, the enforcement measures to be put in place around infringements, agency workers, and employment status.

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The government has, however, recognised that existing employment policy and legislation are no longer fit for purpose, and that both employers and employees need clearer guidance on what good work means in today’s more fluid and ambivalent context. If the proposed reforms lead to higher quality jobs in the longer term, this is to the benefit of both employers and employees, as well as the wider economy during what will be a turbulent few years.

Katie Bailey is professor of work and employment at King’s Business School