An independent review of employment practices — including contingent labor — in the UK will be conducted by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the review earlier this month.
“New forms of employment have many advantages for workers and consumers but there are challenges and risks,” said Taylor, a former advisor to Tony Blair. “We need to approach this issue with an open mind recognizing that within our flexible system of employment the same type of contract can have a diverse range of impacts on the people who use them.”
Taylor discussed the review in a recent post on Medium, and said government employment policy in the UK had three broad phases since World War II:
- Phase 1: The goal of “full employment” took place until the mid-1970s and had the aim of full or nearly full employment for the workforce.
- Phase 2: “Welfarism” began with the providing of a welfare safety net to workers who had been displaced as jobless numbers grew substantially in the 1970s.
- Phase 3: “Work first,” refers to when the government put programs in place with the priority of getting people a job, no matter what the job was.
However, new methods of modern work may be taking the UK into a different phase, and now might be the time to address shortcomings of “work first,” Taylor wrote, also citing concerns with the modern employment situation:
More British workers work longer hours than those in any other European country (more than 48 a week), Taylor wrote. “The number of people on temporary or zero-hours contracts has increased dramatically in the last decade and more workers — particularly the low paid — report both insecurity and anxiety at work,” according to Taylor. “There has also been a major increase in self-employment, much of which is chosen and positive, but some of which is involuntary and bringing in low incomes.”
The fourth phase of work may be “fair work,” which could include a living wage and a ban on zero-hour contracts among other things, he wrote.
Zero-hour contracts describe work arrangements that do not guarantee any amount of work, according to Staffing Industry Analysts’ Lexicon (PDF download).
The Telegraph reports the independent review could anger businesses, which had hoped for less red tape after Brexit.