Post by Elizabeth McEneny

The Taylor Review on Modern employment practices has just launched with a regional tour visiting different sectors to fully understand the impact of modern working practices and how different labour markets work.

The inquiry will consider the implications of new forms of work on employee rights and responsibilities – as well as on employer freedoms and obligations

Recent time has seen a dramatic rise of crowd work, where online platforms match workers to perform “gigs” “rides” or “tasks”.

We have seen recently in the Uber case that some workers wish to be afforded the protections offered to employees and workers, while others eschew the idea of being an employee or worker.

The array of contractual relationships and competing legal categorisations between platforms, workers and customers sits uneasily with the current employment framework by which a person’s entitlement to employment rights is determined by their employment status  of employee, worker, or self-employed.

An employee is entitled to a full range of employment rights: the National Minimum wage, annual leave, rest breaks, maternity, paternity and adoption leave, right not to be treated less favorably as a part-time worker, right not to be treated less favorably as a fixed-term employee, right to request flexible working, protection from discrimination at work, minimum notice periods, collective redundancy consultation, statutory redundancy pay, protection from unfair dismissal and TUPE.

A worker is entitled to a range but not all employment rights: the National Minimum and Living Wage, annual leave, rest breaks, right not to be treated less favorably as a part-time worker, protection from discrimination at work.

In contrast, the self-employed have no entitlement to employment rights beyond basic health and safety and anti discrimination laws.

The wide-ranging review will examine how flexibility can be maintained while also supporting job security and workplace rights, and whether new employment practices can be better used as an opportunity for underrepresented groups.

Commenting on his appointment, RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor said:

“New forms of employment have many advantages for workers and consumers but there are challenges and risks. We need to approach this issue with an open mind recognising that within our flexible system of employment the same type of contract can have a diverse range of impacts on the people who use them.

The review will address six key themes:

1.Security, pay and rights

To what extent does the growth in non-standard forms of employment undermine the reach of policies like the National Living Wage, maternity and paternity rights, pensions auto-enrolment, sick pay, and holiday pay?

2.Progression and training

How can we facilitate and encourage professional development within the modern economy to the benefit of both employers and employees?

3.Finding the appropriate balance of rights and responsibilities for new business models

Do current definitions of employment status need to be updated to reflect new forms of working created by emerging business models, such as on-demand platforms?

4.Representation

Could we learn lessons from alternative forms of representation around the world, for example the Freelancers Union in New York which focuses on access to health insurance, or the California App Based Drivers Association which lobbies companies like Uber on behalf of drivers?

5.Opportunities for under-represented groups

How can we harness modern employment to create opportunities for groups currently underrepresented in the labour market (the elderly, those with disabilities or care responsibilities)?

6.New business models

How can government – nationally or locally – support a diverse ecology of business models enhancing the choices available to investors, consumers and workers?

As technology evolves at a rapid pace will the law be able to keep pace. Will new an innovative changes need to be made to the law to prevent numerous intermediate categories of workers being defined. Or as proposed by Jeremias Prassl of Oxford University has suggested, “We should abandon the traditional focus on the employee question, and focus on the concept of the employer: which entity, or indeed combination of entities, is responsible for organising work under the platform’s business model”

The financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, has recently revealed that HM Revenue and Customs is establishing a specialist unit to investigate firms shirking employment obligations. She has said the government was “committed to taking strong action where companies, to reduce their costs, force their staff down routes which deny them the employment rights and benefits they are entitled to”.

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