LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May tried to wrest back control of Britain's political agenda on Tuesday by reviving her pledge to introduce sweeping social reforms at the launch of a report on how to better protect workers in the "gig economy".
The review, compiled by Chief Executive of The Royal Society of Arts Matthew Taylor, proposes an employment category called "dependent contractor" and says those Britons working for companies such as taxi app Uber and takeaway food courier Deliveroo should receive more benefits.
May said she would consider the review, but stopped short of promising to implement its recommendations.
The Taylor Review outlines a seven-point plan:
1. The report says Britain should work towards "good work for all", which includes:
a) "There should be a fair balance of rights and responsibilities, everyone should have a baseline of protection and there should be routes to enable progression at work."
b) More consistency in the taxation of labor, and improved rights and entitlements for the self-employed.
c) An appreciation of the impact of technology and the need to adapt to it, as well as the "new opportunities for smarter regulation, more flexible entitlements and new ways for people to organize."
2. The report notes the opportunities that "platform based" working for the likes of Uber and Deliveroo offer, saying the unconventional arrangement can provide desirable flexibility. "These should be protected while ensuring fairness for those who work through these platforms and those who compete with them," the report says. "Worker (or ‘Dependent Contractor’) status should be maintained but we should be clearer about how to distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed."
3. The report says the law should help workers exercise their rights, but costs associated with taking someone on as an employee are high and should not be increased.
"'Dependent contractors' are the group most likely to suffer from unfair one-sided flexibility and therefore we need to provide additional protections for this group and stronger incentives for firms to treat them fairly."
4. "The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organization, which is why it is important that companies are seen to take good work seriously and are open about their practices and that all workers are able to be engaged and heard," the report says.
5. The report says it is "vital" for people to feel they have attainable ways to strengthen future work prospects and engage in informal and formal learning.
6. "The shape and content of work and individual health and well-being are strongly related," the report says, calling for "a more proactive approach to workplace health".
7. "The National Living Wage is a powerful tool to raise the financial base line of low-paid workers," the report says. "It needs to be accompanied by sectoral strategies engaging employers, employees and stakeholders to ensure that people – particularly in low paid sectors – are not stuck at the living wage minimum or facing insecurity but can progress in their current and future work."
The report says that "those employers who decide to demand more insecure forms of work from large sections of their workforce should consider the impact this may be having, and adds that people "deserve the opportunity to plan for the future and where they commit to regular work, employers who can, should be obliged to reciprocate". To tackle the issue of what it calls "one-sided flexibility", it proposes the following steps:
- "Task the Low Pay Commission with examining how a higher minimum wage rate might apply to non-guaranteed hours.
- Develop legislation to make it easier for all working people to receive basic details about their employment relationship up front as well as updating the rules on continuous employment to make it easier to accrue service.
- Reform holiday pay entitlements to make it easier for people in very flexible arrangements to receive their entitlements in real time as well as extending the pay reference period to 52 weeks for those who do not.
- Develop legislation that allows agency workers and those on zero hours contracts the ability to request to formalize the reality of the working relationship".
Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Gareth Jones