Workers in vulnerable employment have been waiting for the government to deliver on rights at work. But today’s response by government to the Taylor Report is not what workers ordered.
The press release boasts “millions to benefit from enhanced rights as government responds to Taylor review of modern working practices” but all that has been announced so far is a vague menu of proposals without any clarity on what legal changes will actually be made.
The government says that it has “acted on all but one of Matthew Taylor’s 53 recommendations”, but there is no reference to his recommendation that workers be given enhanced rights to information and consultation on key workplace issues.
On the fundamental issue of defining who counts in law as an employee or a worker, all the government proposes is yet another consultation, kicking the issue into the long grass yet again.
This won’t help the millions of workers who lack secure employment with regular, guaranteed hours and pay. What they need is action, not another review.
Too many workers are unaware of their rights or are too fearful to enforce them. Workers need clear and comprehensive rights, backed up by the power to enforce them and the right to be represented by their trade union.
Providing workers with a right to request a more stable contract is an empty gesture. Workers in vulnerable employment will be reluctant to rock the boat by making a request when all the power lies with their employer. We need legislation outlawing zero-hours contracts and providing guaranteed hours and pay, modelled on the laws in force in New Zealand.
The government should act now to extend all rights at work to all workers, not just to those who meet the definition of employee. All rights should apply from day one at work, including the right to a payslip and a statement of employment terms.
The definition of worker should be simplified so that all workers have legal protection unless they are genuinely in business on their own account. The burden of proof should be on the employer to show that someone who provides services personally is not a worker. The law should clamp down on avoidance tactics by employers, making clear that employers cannot defeat a claim of worker status by using a “substitution clause” in the contract which claims to permit the worker to arrange for someone to do the work in their place.
The government response is a missed opportunity and a failure to tackle the fundamental issues. It does nothing to provide greater security for the millions of workers in vulnerable work and nothing to provide a fairer, more secure workplace which truly delivers the “Good Work” the government claims it wants to see.
Jo Stevens is the Labour MP for Cardiff Central and Secretary of the Trade Union Group of MPs.