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On 1 October 2016, Theresa May, then Prime Minister, commissioned Matthew Taylor, the chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, to lead a review into how employment law needed to adapt to keep pace with modern business practices. The review was driven by the rise in atypical forms of working, particularly in the ‘gig economy’.

Data from the Office of National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey indicated that there had been a substantial rise in the number of workers working on zero-hours contracts, peaking at 907,000 in the period of October to December 2016. A 2016 report from the TUC suggested that there were as many as 3.2 million insecure workers who lacked access to basic rights and decent levels of pay.

The Taylor Review was formally launched on 30 November 2016, shortly after a landmark ruling involving Uber, the ride-sharing company. The Employment Tribunal found that Uber drivers were not self-employed but were ‘workers’ entitled to basic workers’ rights, including the right to receive the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay.

The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was published in July 2017. It concluded that the labour market was changing, that new forms of work were raising questions about the existing legislation and that there was a need to “organise our national framework around an explicit commitment to good work for all.” The Review broadly centred around three themes:

  • tackling exploitative employment practices;
  • increasing clarity in the law and helping people enforce their rights; and
  • aligning the incentives driving labour market change with broader national objectives.

It contained a wide range of recommendations on issues such as agency workers, employment status, the enforcement of employment rights, maternity discrimination and zero-hours contracts.

The Review received a mixed response from stakeholders. Business groups broadly welcomed the Review’s recognition that flexibility can be a strength in the labour market but cautioned against reforms that could damage job prospects. Trade unions welcomed elements of the Review, such as the recommendation to abolish the ‘Swedish Derogation’ – a rule that exempts some agency workers from the right to equal pay with directly hired staff. They also welcomed the recommendation that a higher rate of minimum wage should be paid for working hours not fixed in the contract. However, they broadly concluded that the Review was not bold enough, criticising recommendations such as the right to request fixed working hours.

In December 2018, the May Government published the Good Work Plan, outlining how it intended to implement the recommendations of the Taylor Review. The Government stated that it was accepting 51 out of the 53 recommendations made in Taylor and labelled its proposals the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation. By contrast, the Labour party criticised the Plan as falling dramatically short of improving the lives of workers.

The Government has passed secondary legislation giving effect to some of the commitments in the Good Work Plan, including legislation that will abolish the Swedish Derogation and legislation to extend to workers the right to receive a written statement of employment rights.

However, many of the core recommendations in the Taylor Review have yet to be implemented. The Government has held consultations on measures to tackle one-sided flexibility and a proposal to establish a single enforcement body for employment rights. It also held a ‘Good Work Plan consultation’ on family-related leave, although the issue did not actually feature in the either the Taylor Review of the Good Work Plan. As the Government has not responded to the numerous consultations on these reforms, it is not yet clear how it intends to proceed across the full range of issues identified.

Nevertheless, in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech, the Johnson Government announced an Employment Bill. The Bill has yet to be published, but the Government stated that the Bill would have a variety of purposes, including giving effect to many Good Work Plan recommendations. It said the Bill would include measures such as establishing a single enforcement body, giving workers a right to request a contract with more predictable hours and banning deductions from staff tips.

Some key questions remain, including whether the Government intends to legislate to reform employment status – one of the key aspects of the Taylor Review.

Structure of this paper

This paper provides an overview of the recommendations made in the Taylor Review and the action the Government has taken to date.

Section 1 provides a timeline of key events and publications as well as a summary table listing all of the Taylor Review recommendations and Government actions.

Sections 2 to 15 provide a detailed overview of specific issues raised in Taylor.

Section 16 provides a summary of some of the key stakeholder responses.

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