Taylor Review: an opportunity lost
Employment briefing: the Taylor Review report contains some sound practical suggestions, but has missed an opportunity to address in a radical way the specific issues faced by women
AMANDA JONES, PARTNER, MACLAY MURRAY & SPENS LLP
The long-awaited Taylor Review has been published, to what has inevitably been a mixed response. The review was given the unenviable task of developing proposals to improve the lives of the working public. Much of the commentary has related to the differences between a “worker” and the suggested new category of “dependent contractor”. However, it is not really clear what those differences, if any, would be and experience tells us that even when legislators say that new terminology is not intended to change the interpretation of words, there is always a debate about whether or not that is in fact the case.
The report does however have some key recommendations which are interesting from an HR perspective:
- A written statement of particulars should be provided to all workers on day one of employment.
- National minimum wage rates could be increased for non-guaranteed hours of work performed under the contract.
- Individuals should have the option for holiday pay to be paid on a rolled-up basis.
- After 12 months, those on zero-hours contracts should be given the right to request guaranteed hours; similarly agency workers should have a right to request a direct contract.
- The burden should be on an employer in a tribunal to prove that the claimant is not an employee/worker.
- A naming and shaming scheme should be established for employers who do not pay tribunal awards within a reasonable time.
- Statutory sick pay should be made available to all workers, but it should accrue based on length of service.
- Individuals should have the right to return to work after long-term sickness absence.
At the moment, these are of course only recommendations. However, they are sound practical suggestions which attempt the very difficult balance of being acceptable to both employers and of benefit, at least in some cases, to employees.
Overall, the review acknowledged the importance of flexibility in the workplace, which contributes to record high employment. However, the need to ensure the labour market remains dynamic enough to adapt to new business models was also emphasised. The report focused very much on what good work means for workers in the most general sense and how that could be improved. That of course is a very laudable aim, but it also presents a challenge to make recommendations which have any chance of being implemented by a Government that currently seems to be
in chaos, but which might also have the desired outcome.
It is of course easy to criticise such a report, even when it is clear that significant effort has gone into producing balanced outcomes. One of the most senior employment law practitioners in Scotland was one of the four experts in the review, and this must give us some comfort that differences in the Scottish position were taken into account.
WOMEN: A LACK OF ATTENTION
However, the principal disappointment about the report is the lack of focus on the specific difficulties faced by women in the workplace or specific recommendations to alleviate these. The report is very much focused on seeking to ensure good quality work, and in particular education and training and a work-life balance. It is difficult to understand how such admirable objectives can be achieved without a proper analysis of the specific difficulties faced by women in the workplace.
It is not until p 94 that there is any mention of the particular experiences of women. The report recognises that female employment is at a record high, and that women disproportionately work part-time, and are increasingly self-employed. The report also recognises that together with occupational segregation, lower median hours earnings for part-time workers are one of the root causes of the gender pay gap. Further, the issue of pregnancy and maternity is not recognised until p 96. The report states: “Many of this review’s recommendations on quality work will directly benefit women but tackling the issue of maternity and pregnancy discrimination needs more action.”
Yet the only recommendation is that the Government should review, and in any event consolidate, guidance on the relevant legislation and consider further options for legislative intervention. Research by the Equality & Human Rights Commission since 2015 has found that more than three quarters of pregnant women and working mothers experience negative or discriminatory treatment at work each year, with many losing their jobs.
Therefore, while the aims and effort of those writing the report cannot be criticised, it is disappointing that the opportunity to make radical recommendations which might address the specific issues faced by women was not taken up.