News & Opinion

News & Opinion from United Employment Lawyers. Breaking Barriers • Working Together • Delivering Excellence

Spirit of good employers is more important than more work legislation

We now understand that the world of work is changing dramatically – and will continue to do so.

Followers of our blog will know we have been talking about the rise of self-employment, the pernicious impact of zero-hour contracts, and innovative forms of working that have caused us to question established norms and examine how the current legislative framework in the UK fits with this revolution.

So the newly-published Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices – entitled Good Work – is to be applauded as a landmark publication that requires wider and deeper debate.

We wholeheartedly agree with the introductory statement that all work in the UK economy should be ‘fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfilment.’

For the world of work to properly function everyone must be treated with respect and decency at work. We know there is a long, long way to go. Taylor is right to point out that we must create jobs that have decent prospects. We need employment where there are proper career paths, and employment that encourages people to see a positive future. Working smarter leads to increased productivity.

Taylor and his colleagues talk about the health and happiness that people gain from doing quality work. The pressing issue for the modern workforce is that they are told from school days that they must find employment to be productive citizens. They are told they must gain university and college degrees, then end up serving cappuccinos in coffee shops.

Far too many arrive in today’s workplace spending a significant time in work where they become disillusioned, cynical and angry. This can destroy lives, aspirations and devalue the importance of work.

We need all employers to look after the people they employ in a far better way. Of course there are some fine exampled players out there, including companies such as Pret A Manger, who do a great deal to encourage their younger staff to progress up the ladder.

At the root is the need to encourage everyone to adopt an attitude of lifelong learning. Our universities and colleges are brilliant at preparing people for the workplace, but this role must continue throughout the working lives of our population. We need far more retraining, more recognition of career breaks, better investment in understanding how new technologies impact on our lives and society. The world of work needs more structure for those who are going to spend 40 years of their life doing worthwhile activities.

Taylor points out: “The most important factors determining people’s experience of work lie in the relationship between those who hire, employ and manage on the one hand, and those whose services they employ on the other. For most people the benefits of work go well beyond the minima established in law; the vast majority of employers understand the value of good employment practice. National policy cannot mandate best practice and should not put extra burdens on those already acting responsibly.’’

This is well said. Employment law and pages and pages of legislation only takes us so far. And there is plenty in the report to tighten procedures which are very welcome indeed.

The new distinction of renaming workers who are not employees as ‘dependent contractors’ is a good step and legislation will be amended so that case law reflects this.

There is also proposed amendment the law on the National Minimum Wage to make it clear that gig-economy workers allocated for work through an app are undertaking a form of output work and will not have to be paid NMW for each hour logged on when there is no work available.

Many of the recommendations are a leap forward towards ‘Good Work’ in the UK.

But it is the spirit of the employers in the UK that must match this. As Taylor says, pay is only one aspect in determining the quality of work. At the root is fulfilment, personal development and a proper balance of work and family life. That’s at the heart of this important piece of work. We must highlight and support best practice in the workplace – and ensure that this becomes the norm, rather than the exception.