The Taylor report was published today and the response has been rather negative from employment lawyers.
The purpose of the inquiry was to come up with suggestions as to how current laws can be simplified to better protect workers with special attention being paid to those working within the “gig economy”. This is comprised of short term or zero hour employment contracts rather than secure, permanent jobs.
His primary suggestions are, according to City A.M.:
- Businesses should be transparent as to how they employ people and provide detail of how many zero hour contracts they offer and who is classed as working within which employment status;
- A worker’s employment status should be determined before a case proceeds to the Employment Tribunal and the burden of proof will be on the employer to disprove a Claimant employee’s claimed employment status. However, there is little detail on this and it is unclear what mechanism there will be to determine this prior to a tribunal hearing and more clarity is required;
- The term worker should be defined as a dependent contractor to make it clearer that the self-employed who rely primarily on one business for their income are included, although the report warns that this change should be enacted in a way that does not harm those who benefit from the current system;
- Use data to calculate the cost of each job. This suggestion involves an employer being required to analyse data they hold to calculate the average length of a task, how many tasks per hour a worker could reasonably be expected to undertake and monitor whether that worker is receiving the national minimum wage. If they are not, they will be required to top up the worker’s income to the minimum wage;
- Abolish the loophole that allows agency workers to be paid less than permanent ones; and
- Make the National Insurance changes proposed and then scrapped by the Chancellor to ensure parity between the N.I. paid by the employed and the self-employed.
Time will tell whether the proposals will be implemented and, if they are, whether they go far enough. Publishing the details of zero hour contracts to, seemingly, attempt to name and shame employers may have some impact, but in the writer’s view not enough. Workers on zero hour contracts are entitled to holiday pay calculated with reference to the number of hours worked on average rather than the hours within their contract, but few workers who work under such agreements have the confidence and job security to insist upon this if it places their job and income at risk.
More needs to be done to protect workers from unfair treatment and dismissal, exploitation in terms of holiday pay and sick pay and employers not paying the minimum wage. Perhaps, though, for now, it is for the lawyers to ensure that correct advice on the protections they do have is provided to as many workers as possible so they have the tools and the knowledge to stand up for their rights.