Ruth Buchanan and Hannah Martin: Does the government’s response to the Taylor Review go far enough to protect workers?

Ruth Buchanan Taylor Review

The future of work is here; or is it? In February 2018, the government released its response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices and there are likely to be a lot of changes for employers to get to grips with.

The government proposes to take action on 52 of the review’s 53 recommendations, including a right for all workers to request a more stable contract and a new definition of working time for flexible workers.

The themes for employment law reform over the next few years will be transparency, access to and enforceability of rights for vulnerable workers, and shifting the risks of misclassification away from workers and onto organisations. The potential shift in the balance of power away from employers in each of these areas has the potential to be significant.

At this stage, a lot of the government’s commitments are big on ideas but short on detail. The challenge for the government is to take the review’s big picture concepts and give them practical application in the everyday world of work. That is easier said than done. The changes are likely to be significant but incremental. We are not expecting an immediate tidal wave of employment law reform.

The government’s first step towards implementation was to require all workers to be provided with written pay statements including information about hours worked for this with variable hours. This is a sensible step which ensures that workers have access to basic information about their employment.

The one review recommendation the government has decided not to pursue is reducing the gap between national insurance contributions paid by employees and the self-employed.  This means that there will continue to be a tax incentive for businesses to engage self-employed people rather than employees. It also means that there will continue to be a mismatch between employment status for tax and employment purposes.

Has the government’s response gone far enough, or too far?  At this stage it is too early to tell.  Some of the proposed reforms are sensible and likely to be welcomed by employers and employees; others are likely to be more contentious and controversial. As the employment law landscape develops over the next few years, we will be watching closely to see what the future of good work really involves.

Ruth Buchanan (pictured) is partner at law firm Ashurst and Hannah Martin is associate at Ashurst.