The Taylor Review – Can It Bring The Radical Change Needed?


The Law Of… Tackling The UK’s Employment Problems

The Taylor Review made a number of recommendations to improve the working conditions of those working in the ‘gig economy’.

Joy Drummond, Employment Partner at Simpson Millar, compiled a report on some of the Review’s findings. She now investigates what the implications of the Taylor Review are in the long term and what changes employees can expect.

Issues With Working Hours

In July 2017, Matthew Taylor released his review into the working practices in the UK. He explained that the ‘gig economy’ provided ways of working that did not include shifts, no guaranteed hours and a person is often paid for the task they complete, for example, driving a car or delivering a pizza.

In some cases, this gig work also provides an online platform that connects the buyer with the provider. It is difficult to tell whether the individuals performing the tasks are employed by the company or whether they are self-employed, which makes it difficult to determine their employment rights.

Taylor also stated that Britain was good at creating jobs like this, but not at generating jobs of sufficient quality. Certain jobs are insecure, demeaning, exhausting and generate lower income. The aim of the Taylor Review was to create good work and treat individuals falling into this category with fairness.

Zero Hours Contracts And The Minimum Wage

The Taylor Review recommended that zero hours contracts should not be banned, but rather those working under this arrangement should be able to request guaranteed hours. Companies would then be required to publish requests for guaranteed hours to increase the likelihood of them being granted.

The review also suggested a higher national minimum wage for non-guaranteed hours so that individuals on zero hours contracts would then earn more than the standard minimum wage. While this would be helpful, what is really needed is a right to fixed hours. Taylor’s proposals on the minimum wage for sectors of the gig economy using online platforms are much less attractive. The courts have already confirmed that many of those working in the 'gig economy' are in fact workers with the right to the minimum wage. The current minimum wage rules are fairly straightforward to understand and apply. Matthew Taylor’s proposals for this are complicated and rely on the provision of information from the employer to know whether or not you are likely to be being underpaid.

In a question to Matthew Taylor in a recent edition of Money Box Radio show on BBC Radio 4 Joy Drummond asked why the review did not recommend a worker’s right to switch from a zero hours to a fixed hours contract after 12 months. Mathew Taylor responded by stating most people choose the zero hours contracts as it gave them the freedom to choose their own working hours. Further, this would create a perverse incentive for the employer to effectively end the contract before it reached 12 months. Joy comments that the same could be said about the right to claim unfair dismissal, for example it encourages employers to dismiss staff just before the end of the qualifying period (now 2 years). No one is suggesting the abolition of unfair dismissal rights – there would be an outcry.

On choice, Joy said that individuals on zero hours contracts often only worked under this arrangement because they had no other alternative with that employer, or elsewhere in their area. There should be a real choice where workers can insist on being able to do the same work for the same employer on a fixed hours contract.

Matthew Taylor explained that he did not want to recommend anything that would over-regulate zero hours contracts as people would stop using them. He also did not want to stop legitimate forms of working that people chose to do.

Taylor was also reluctant to recommend a set of proposals that could not be implemented.

Joy comments: “I feel this is the real reason why Taylor did not recommend more robust reforms. He fears in the current political climate, anything stronger would never make it through parliament. Modest proposals, however, stand a greater chance of becoming law.” 

“I have sympathy for this position. It is better to have some actual improvement in the rights for workers now – or at least soon. But the review must serve as the start of building the more radical reforms that are needed to make substantial differences to workers’ lives.”

Worker Status

The existing legal tests to determine whether an individual is a worker, employee or self-employed are unsatisfactory and uncertain. This is important because different rights apply in each case. Taylor does not propose a new category of worker. All he does is makes minor amendments to that law and puts them in a statute with guidance.

Changes To Employment Tribunal Procedure

Taylor also recommended the following changes to employment tribunal procedure, with aims of making the process easier for workers:

  • The right to a decision by an employment tribunal on an individual's worker status without having to pay a fee to the tribunal. Note that following the ground-breaking decision of the Supreme Court in the case brought by Unison all Employment Tribunal fees have been abolished.
  • If an individual brings a claim, there would be a presumption that they are a worker or employee and the burden would be on the employer to prove that they are not.

Joy Drummond’s Closing Thoughts

Joy took part in a radio show on TalkRadio in July 2017 to comment on the Taylor review. She expressed her disappointment that it failed to recommend any radical changes. 

Joy comments:

"Millions of workers have been denied basic employment rights because they are at a weaker bargaining position, with many workers having no choice but to work long or uncertain hours on low pay because there is no real alternative."

"Matthew Taylor diagnoses the problem in several areas well, and makes numerous good, but limited proposals. Real change will only come with the more radical reform."  

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