Employment status has been the dominant topic in employment law recently in light of the surge of the gig economy. It is therefore no surprise that the recently published Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices focuses on worker status and asscociated issues such as the quality of work and the need for consistency in taxation.
Prior to the publication of the Taylor Review, many were expecting some revelation (such as further legislation) to “fix” the problems of uncertain employment associated with “gigging” and zero hours contracts. The revelation appears to be a renaming of “worker” to “dependent contractor” together with the suggestion that uncertainty over status could be removed by way of a process involving a judgment before a claim reaches an Employment Tribunal.
Taylor also suggests that the way to improve the quality of work is by “good management” and “strong employment relations” rather than regulation. In summary, with better management and promotion of quality work, individuals are empowered and productivity and standards increase.
Whilst I commend the promotion of quality work and good management, many employers (including the vast majority not involved in the gig economy) will feel that they are already working by the principles offered by Taylor as being the way forward. A pre-claim “status” assessment is also unlikely to fix anything, whether an individual is labelled a worker or dependent contractor.
I was pleased to see the Review did not seek to ban zero hours contracts. As highlighted by McDonald’s, large numbers of zero hours workers prefer the arrangement to fixed hours. The key, to take Taylor’s good management message, may be that employers should seek to use of flexible working only when necessary and not simply to maintain one sided flexibility over staffing.
It may have been more radical to propose a two-status system of “employed” and “self employed” but frankly that would have been more likely to have impacted the perceived unfairness caused by uncertain employment and tax avoidance. Time will tell whether or not the Taylor Review proves to be a missed opportunity.