The issue of low-paid and insecure work is one of the thorniest and important problems facing the British economy.
The government took it seriously enough to commission a major review into the so-called “gig” economy and the major shift in employment practices. Today, the Taylor review released its long-awaited report, and the reaction was a widespread shrug of the shoulders.
Some of the country’s biggest trade union have already criticised the report for falling short of recognized the scale of change that has already taken place in so many fields.
Unite said the Taylor review “spectacularly failed to deliver,” while the GMB called it a “disappointing missed opportunity.” Thompsons Solicitors, a firm specialising in workers’ rights, dismissed it as “feeble.”
In his report, the former 10 Downing Street policy chief Matthew Taylor (pictured above) recommended that the government reduce the cost of employment tribunal fees.
He also laid out seven “principles” for “fair and decent work”. But there was precious little detail how the government should tackle zero hours contracts or the shift toward spurious use of self-employment to deny workers permanent contracts.
Little either on how best to adjust to the disruptive digital technology undercutting the tradition of collective bargaining, despite the explosion in new app-based service providers such as Uber.
We got a depressing sense that insecurity is the inevitable new norm
“The report does nothing to address the rampaging growth in forced self-employment,” said Unite leader Len McCluskey.
“One in six workers in this country fall into this category, denied sick pay, holiday pay, their basic rights and a pension. Neither will it address bogus self-employment, and the unacceptable use of zero hours and agency work to deny someone a permanent, full-time job.”
McCluskey added: “Instead of the serious programme the country urgently needs to ensure that once again work pays in this country from Taylor we got a depressing sense that insecurity is the inevitable new norm. We will not accept that.”
Taylor did suggest there should be a clear separation made between so-called gig economy workers and those who choose to be self-employed.
Gig economy workers should be considered “dependent contractors” and be given stronger employment protections. Such suggestions imply it is simply up to companies to treat their contractors better.
Prime Minister Theresa May defended the review, saying it would ensure “the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self-employed and those people working in the ‘gig’ economy are all properly protected.”