We’ve been looking forward to seeing Matthew Taylor’s review of Good Work, which was published yesterday.
The review was commissioned by the Prime Minister last autumn, and considered how employment practices need to change to keep pace with modern business models. Taylor has considered the implications of new forms of work, driven by digital platforms, for employee rights and responsibilities, employer freedoms and obligations, and employment regulations.
Good communication – whether it’s about brand definition and growth, behavioural change in large organisations or the community impact they can deliver – often comes down to internal conversations. Spring spends time at the start of projects listening to staff and other stakeholders, understanding their needs and motivations, what makes them proud and what frustrates them. We’ll often be working with people at extreme ends of the pay scale, with very different work contracts.
The desire that unites them always is to have a shared sense of purpose, feel fulfilled in their work, be given opportunities to progress and recognition from their colleagues. Often, when Spring starts to work with a new client, the ‘purpose’ of work has become ill-defined, basic human interactions swamped in process, corporate layers and paperwork, and the basic reason people have entered an industry has become clouded with time. Quality of employees’ output will often be impacted by lack of clarity from senior levels about expectations, creating a vicious cycle.
Our brief will be to restore clarity of purpose and bring it to life, in and outside those organisations through a wide variety of actions and channels. Taylor’s report provide valuable insight about what government and business can do together to restore people’s pride in their work. Good work matters – for the people who do it, the people who employ them and the beneficiaries of that work.
The seven action points that fall from the report are as follows:
1. Our national strategy for work – the British way – should be explicitly directed toward the goal of good work for all, recognising that good work and plentiful work can and should go together. Good work is something for which Government needs to be held accountable but for which we all need to take responsibility.
a) The same basic principles should apply to all forms of employment in the British economy – there should be a fair balance of rights and responsibilities, everyone should have a baseline of protection and there should be routes to enable progression at work.
b) Over the long term, in the interests of innovation, fair competition and sound public finances we need to make the taxation of labour more consistent across employment forms while at the same time improving the rights and entitlements of self-employed people.
c) Technological change will impact work and types of employment and we need to be able to adapt, but technology can also offer new opportunities for smarter regulation, more flexible entitlements and new ways for people to organise
2. Platform based working offers welcome opportunities for genuine two way flexibility and can provide opportunities for those who may not be able to work in more conventional ways. These should be protected while ensuring fairness for those who work through these platforms and those who compete with them. Worker (or ‘Dependent Contractor’ as we suggest renaming it) status should be maintained but we should be clearer about how to distinguish workers from those who are legitimately self-employed
3. The law and the way it is promulgated and enforced should help firms make the right choices and individuals to know and exercise their rights. Although there are some things that can be done to improve working practices for employees, the ‘employment wedge’ (the additional, largely non- wage, costs associated with taking someone on as an employee) is already high and we should avoid increasing it further. ‘Dependent contractors’ are the group most likely to suffer from unfair one- sided flexibility and therefore we need to provide additional protections for this group and stronger incentives for firms to treat them fairly.
4. The best way to achieve better work is not national regulation but responsible corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations within the organisation, which is why it is important that companies are seen to take good work seriously and are open about their practices and that all workers are able to be engaged and heard.
5. It is vital to individuals and the health of our economy that everyone feels they have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects and that they can, from the beginning to the end of their working life, record and enhance the capabilities developed in formal and informal learning and in on the job and off the job activities.
6. The shape and content of work and individual health and well-being are strongly related. For the benefit for firms, workers and the public interest we need to develop a more proactive approach to workplace health.
7. The National Living Wage is a powerful tool to raise the financial base line of low paid workers. It needs to be accompanied by sectoral strategies engaging employers, employees and stakeholders to ensure that people – particularly in low paid sectors – are not stuck at the living wage minimum or facing insecurity but can progress in their current and future work.