A government review into the employment of the UK’s “gig economy” workers has called for better quality jobs and “dignity at work”.
The Taylor Review, headed up by Tony Blair’s former advisor Matthew Taylor, sets out a number of recommendations to “protect” people working for companies such as Uber and Deliveroo.
“The review calls on the government to adopt the ambition that all work should be fair and decent with scope for fulfilment and development,” Taylor said.
But the report, which took nine months to produce, has been attacked as “feeble” by unions and employment lawyers, with critics saying it does not go far enough to protect workers from “insecurity and exploitation”.
Arguing that the review is not the “game-changer” needed, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “I worry that many gig economy employers will be breathing a sigh of relief this morning.
“We’d welcome any nuggets of good news, but it doesn’t look like the report will shift the balance of power in the modern workplace.”
The report also came under fire from Unite leader Len McCluskey, who said that the recommendations must be backed up by legislation.
“Without fully resourced enforcement then all we have from Mr Taylor and the Government is a dog that is all bark and no bite,” McCluskey said.
But what does the Taylor review actually recommend?
No guarantee of minimum wage for workers
Much to the anger of unions and employment lawyers, the Taylor review does not suggest a guaranteed minimum wage for workers.
Instead, it recommends an opt-in system that removes workers’ right to redress over not being paid the minimum wage.
“One of the things these people value is the ability to work whenever they want to,” Taylor told Radio 4′s Today programme.
To protect this, the report recommends that, as long as:
- the average workers earns 1.2 times the minimum wage overall
- can “genuinely” choose to work whenever
- is aware that they won’t be earning the minimum wage when clocking on at a specific time
then workers will not be able to take a claim against the company for not earning the minimum wage.
But O’Grady said that “reviving piece rates would be a backward step”.
“We already know from union wins in the courts that Deliveroo and Uber should be paying their workforce the minimum wage now,” she said.
“What happens if an Uber or Deliveroo driver gets stuck in traffic?
“Will they get paid less for not completing their set quota of jobs? And what does it mean for their health and safety if they’re under pressure to meet job quotas at speed?”
The review recommends that a new category of workers called “dependent contractors” should be created in an attempt to clarify the grey area between fully-employed and self-employed workers.
The report calls for these contractors to receive holiday and sick pay.
“The main demand that people have had about platforms like Uber and Deliveroo is that people in those platforms shouldn’t be treated as self-employed, which means they don’t have many rights, that the employer doesn’t have to pay national insurance,” Taylor said.
“In the end, that has to be decided by the courts, but we’re arguing for new legislation and I think the implication of what we are saying is pretty clearly that we support the direction that the courts are going in.
“Which is to say that if those models remain as they are, then probably those people will be defined as workers, they will get minimum wage, holiday pay and sickness pay.”
No ban on zero hour contracts
Despite numerous calls to ban controversial zero hour contracts - which do not guarantee workers any hours - the Taylor review has not done so.
Speaking this morning, Taylor argued that many zero hours contract workers “choose” to work that way, saying “it suits them”.
Instead, the report calls on employers to “find ways to guarantee people more hours”, recommending that people on zero hour contracts should have the right to request fixed hours.
Employers would then be compelled to disclose how many requests they have received and how many they have conceded.
It also proposes a higher national minimum for non-guaranteed hours.
“So if you’re on a zero hours contract and someone asks you to work 20 hours, you would get a higher minimum wage [than someone on a fixed hour contract]” Taylor explained.
‘Strengthened’ access to employment tribunals
People considering taking a company to an employment tribunal should be given a free judgement before they pursue the case, the report suggests.
It is hoped that this would prevent cases in which people find themselves part-way through an employment tribunal - which can be very expensive - only to be told they are not an employee or worker and therefore do not have rights.
In addition to this, employers would also face higher penalties for aggravated breeches of worker’s rights if they are successfully taken to tribunal more than once over the same issue.
However, while the report has encouraged the government to tackle high tribunal fees, employees will still face them in the near future.