24 Aug 2018

The world of work is evolving. Economic, societal and technological changes are leading to increased global collaboration, agile working and automation. And it’s a positive shift according to Matthew Taylor’s report on Modern Working Practices, which suggests the future world of work is presenting an abundance of opportunities, better quality jobs and the potential to transform the employer – employee relationship.

Although the Government accepted some of the recommendations put forward by the Taylor Review, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee decided to launch further consultation exercises in four key areas: employment status, agency workers, increased transparency in the UK labour market and enforcement of rights.

The employment team at Taylor Vinters have contributed to this discussion by submitting responses on all four consultation topics. The overriding theme of their analysis is that clarity, transparency and education are crucial for the future world of work.

Dom Holmes, Co-Head of the employment team, believes that entrepreneurial, tech-focused organisations need greater clarity from law-makers, to help them resource their products and services in a fair and flexible way:

“Innovative businesses have a fantastic opportunity to embrace technology and take a completely new approach to how they do business and engage talent. Unfortunately, the existing concepts of ‘employee’ and ‘worker’ are no longer fit for purpose and simply cause confusion. It is widely recognised that the law has failed to keep pace with the evolving world of work and we must address that quickly.”

“We certainly need to stamp out the unethical exploitation of cheap, on-demand labour and provide effective, accessible means of enforcing rights. With that in mind, I would like to see a recalibration of the current system, so that employee and worker protections are focused primarily on helping vulnerable people in low-paid roles, with no job security and no real bargaining power. Outside of those parameters, businesses should be given as much flexibility as possible to develop new ways of working and freedom to contract with individuals on mutually beneficial terms.”

Scott Glacken, Senior Associate, agrees that the legislation needs to be much clearer: “The existing rules around employment status remain relevant (in principle) to the modern labour market, but it is too difficult for businesses and individuals to understand them because there are too many grey areas.

“The solution, in my view, lies in implementing simply drafted legislation to enshrine the fundamental principles of employment status into statute, accompanied by a code of practice. This would be written in plain English so that is it accessible to businesses and individuals alike, and Employment Tribunals would be bound to consider it when deciding on employment status issues.”

A key facts document is a relatively simple way for organisations to provide clarity to agency workers, says Senior Counsel Rachel Ashwood. “A document which sets out the principal terms of the role, such as gross pay, relevant procedures and health and safety is a fitting way to provide transparency. This document could also be handed to external organisations who act as a ‘hirer’ for the business, before the role commences.”

Education is going to be key, concludes Partner Peter Finding, for businesses to operate in a fair and efficient way and for vulnerable workers to be protected. “The majority of employers want to treat their workers well, but where this isn’t the case, workers will only be able to uphold their rights when they know more about them. The publicity around changes to workplace pensions was effective – there’s scope for similar campaigns around basic worker rights.

“In terms of enforcement, we could draw on approaches taken overseas to encourage greater state of enforcement of awards. The Fair Work Ombudsman in Australia provides a more streamlined method of enforcement, focusing on repeat offenders rather than businesses who mistakenly fall foul of regulation. I’d be very keen to see a similar approach in the UK.”

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