The recruitment industry has broadly welcomed the government’s response to Taylor review, if only because it raises questions and issues which the industry has been grappling with for some time.
Tania Bowers, general counsel at APSCo said her organisation was very supportive of the government’s desire for clarity – particularly on employment status and how this is aligned to tax status, workers’ rights and entitlements. Commenting on the outcome, Bowers said the forthcoming consultations would be an opportunity for the industry: “The Employment Status consultation, in particular, which will be open for 16 weeks, is extremely broad, complex and ambitious,” she said. “As we stressed when we gave evidence during the Taylor review, many of our members supply independent contractors – and it is vital that working in this way remains an attractive option for highly skilled consultants who drive much of the dynamism and flexibility in the economy. We hope that the outcome of this exercise offers greater clarity so that these professionals can supply their services without the current level of confusion over their employment and tax status.”
According to Bowers, APSCo understands the government’s priority is addressing issues at the lower end of the market such as the list of ‘day-one’ rights such as holiday and sick pay entitlements and a new right to a payslip for all workers – including agency workers. She notes there is also talk of the right for all workers – including zero-hour and agency workers – to request a more stable contract after 12 months with a hirer, to provide more financial security for those on flexible contracts. “The government seeks to ensure fairness by providing all 1.2 million agency workers with a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages and is considering repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates, namely the Swedish Derogation under the Agency Workers Regulations,” she adds.
REC chief executive Kevin Green also welcomes the announced consultations saying: “The way we work is undergoing drastic changes and it’s high time that regulations around the gig economy are aligned with other flexible workers. We therefore welcome the news that the government has decided to further consult with businesses on the future of the UK workforce.
“We are very pleased to see that the government is working towards more consistency and transparency around the rights and status of people working in the gig economy,” he continued. “This is something that is much needed to level the playing field so gig workers get the same rights as agency workers receive, such as holiday and sick pay.”
However, Green expressed disappointment that there was no decision around improving the Apprenticeship Levy by turning it into a broader training levy. He also said there needed to be more information given around some part of the government’s response: “We still need more clarity on some of the points raised, including the definition of zero-hour contracts and if agency workers are included,” he said. “We also need to know when exactly people are eligible to request a contract and if additional paperwork around this will mean more bureaucracy and therefore a greater burden. In addition, the government’s reform plans should not apply only to Swedish Derogation but instead should open up all parts of the Agency Workers Regulations for review.”
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD said the Review had shone a light on some of the biggest issues facing the modern labour market. “The UK has a flexible labour market that broadly strikes the right balance between providing flexibility for employers and employment protections for individuals but we should always look to tackle abuses of employment rights, provide greater clarity on employers’ obligations and close loopholes wherever we can,” he said. “The government response also rightly places more attention on the enforcement of existing rights which can help ensure that bad practice will be stamped out wherever it exists.
“We particularly welcome the clear commitment to enshrining the principles of 'good work' and ensuring that they are measured on an ongoing basis,” he said. “Work can and should be a force for good, and the measures announced today, alongside the ongoing consultation with business, will help to ensure that these principles are reflected across the economy. We look forward to working with government to help develop these measures and ensure they capture the wide range of factors that make up ‘good work’. A clearer understanding of the elements that create good work will support efforts to boost individual well-being and create more inclusive and productive workplaces.”