‘All work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment’ – Headline findings from the Taylor Review

This is the ambition of the eagerly awaited Taylor Review – an independent review of modern working practices by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts.  Mr Taylor states:

‘Workers should be treated like human beings, not cogs in a machine.’ 

Key findings from the assessment include:

Quality not just quantity counts: Taylor applauds what is referred to as ‘the British Way’ – our flexible approach, commenting that flexible labour markets (such as in the UK) tend to enjoy higher employment rates and lower unemployment than those with more rigid approaches.  However, whilst the UK has a good record on creating jobs, there is concern over the quality of those jobs.  In an interview with the BBC, Mr Taylor said, "In my view there is too much work particularly at the bottom end of the labour market that is not of a high enough quality.” “There are too many people not having their rights fully respected. “

Imbalance in power between individuals and employers can be a key factor: where employers hold more power than employees, this can lead to poorer working conditions and lower wage levels. This type of power could exist where individuals have little choice over who they work for – where there is a dominant local employer in an area or dominant employers of certain skills for example – and is likely to affect the low-skilled and individuals who are geographically or occupationally immobile to a greater degree who face challenges to securing alternative employment.

‘Atypical’ work presents particular issues: atypical work includes part-time working; self-employment; agency work; temporary work; zero-hours contracts; multi-jobs; and the gig economy. Whilst flexibility does work for many people, a key question in relation to atypical work is whether vulnerable workers, or those with limited choice, are adequately protected in this type of employment. As Taylor states: “There’s nothing wrong with zero and low hours contracts but they should be a means to two-way flexibility, not a lazy way for those with market power to dump risk on those who lack that power”. With an estimated 1.1 million people working in Greater Britain’s gig economy in 2017 alone, consideration of worker rights and fair treatment in these sectors is a growing consideration and one that has received regular press coverage in recent months.

What constitutes ‘quality work’?

In ekosgen’s work across the country, we are finding that – in common with the review findings – the quality and nature of jobs is an area of growing concern for clients and is an aspect that is starting to be reflected in performance targets.  For example, in a recent economic review and performance assessment for the D2N2 (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) LEP, we assessed a range of indicators including health and social inclusion and provided recommendations around job quality. Achieving inclusive growth across the economy is increasingly an objective for our clients, ensuring that local growth benefits local people rather than purely generating commercial returns.  

But what is meant by ‘quality work’? The Taylor Review refers to the ‘QuinnE’ model of job quality developed by the Institute of Employment Research which identifies six high-level indicators of quality as:

  • Wages
  • Employment quality (including job security; progression opportunities; predictability of hours)
  • Education and training
  • Working conditions
  • Work life balance
  • Consultative participation & collective representation

ekosgen’s recent workload supports this definition with job security and the predictability of hours highlighted as priorities for the generation of sustainable benefits through a number of our recent studies. However, our experience of working on a number of formative evaluations of large scale employability programmes has highlighted that programme performance targets tend to focus on quantity and not quality of jobs achieved.

What does the report recommend?

In response to the issues identified, the review identifies seven recommendations:

Good work for all: There is need for: a national strategy that addresses the issue of quality work; everyone to have a baseline of protection; progression at work; consistent taxation; improved rights and entitlement of self- employed people; use of technology for smarter regulation.

Dependent contractors: People who work for platform-based companies (such as Deliveroo and Uber) should be classed as dependent contractors. Individuals who prefer flexible working should be allowed to continue but they should be granted fairness at work. There should be a clear distinction made between dependent contractors and those who are legitimately self-employed with additional protections to be introduced by government for the former.

Cost of employment: The government should avoid further increasing the "employment wedge", which is the non-wage cost of employing a person. The review highlights the apprenticeship levy as an expense companies have raised as an issue.

Good corporate governance: The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation

Developing skills: Everyone should feel they have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future prospects at work. Individuals should also be able to develop their skills through formal and informal learning as well as on the job and off the job activities.

A healthy workplace: The UK needs to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health which will benefit companies, workers and the wider public interest.

National Living Wage: The National Living Wage is "a powerful tool" to raise the financial baseline of low paid workers. Strategies must be put in place, particularly for low paid sectors, to make sure workers do not get stuck on this rate of pay. Individuals must feel that they can make progress.

We look forward to seeing how the review recommendations are taken forward and understanding the implications it presents for employers, employees and business/economic growth rates. A combination of complex ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ issues will need to be addressed if the recommendations are to be delivered in full and appropriate measurement and evaluation vehicles will be required over time to assess their impacts.

If you require support to explore local employment characteristics, the potential implications of the Taylor Review or to measure the impact of employment measures going forward, the ekosgen team would be happy to help.

Please contact a member of our consultancy team:

Glasgow (0845 120 6244 – Pamela Reid), Sheffield (0845 644 5407 – Carolyn Turnbull) or Manchester (0845 644 3023 – Kirsten Hedland)