The launch of the government’s Good Work Plan today is a welcome response to The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which set out to make good work a national priority. The response sets the path to affirming and strengthening the rights of workers in an evolving economy - but there remain key areas which will need further and ongoing attention. Here we pick out critical themes.
Quality work is rightly front and centre of this response - we are pleased to see that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, has taken on the responsibility of quality work - a key driver of inclusive growth. It is encouraging to see that government has acknowledged that job satisfaction, fair pay, participation and progression, wellbeing, safety and security and voice and autonomy are key to quality work – whilst also playing an important role in boosting UK productivity. Investing in vocational skills will be critical to achieving participation and progression, as our recent report on skills set out. Spending Review 2019 will need to be consistent with these aims.
Some local areas are already addressing the question of good work. Good jobs pledges are in development in Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and North of Tyne amongst others and we would encourage BEIS to draw from these examples as well as considering how local areas can be supported to deliver on this agenda locally.
Transparency and enforcement of workers’ rights have also been placed high up the agenda. A statement of a worker’s rights on appointment alongside legislation to give workers the right to request a more stable contract are positive steps, but success will be all about implementation. Will workers in precarious work feel able to exercise these rights? And do we think they would challenge their employer if refused? If not, the initial contracts will need to be reconsidered. The Low Pay Commission’s open letter highlights the issue of implementation and proposes a further step of a right to ‘switch to a contract which reflects your normal hours’, which again would need to be enforced through use of Employment Tribunals.
Defining employment status is also critical, as demonstrated by recent high-profile court cases. The response states that ‘we will legislate to improve the clarity of the employment status tests, reflecting the reality of modern working relationships’. The big question then is what those rights should be in an evolving modern economy where working practices do not necessarily fit into existing definitions.
We look forward to working with others to help determine the rights of those in new forms of work and in measuring and monitoring good work. The prize is substantial - lifting working people out of poverty and driving inclusive growth in the UK.