The nature of work is changing. Technology and changing attitudes to work are allowing workers and employers to engage with one another in a more flexible way than ever before. This can generate increased opportunity, but has also given rise to a need for appropriate checks and balances are in place to prevent exploitation.

Pinsent Masons has played a pivotal role in that debate, helping to shape UK policy in this area. Diane Nicol, a partner in our employment and reward practice, was the sole lawyer on an expert panel of four which conducted the government-commissioned Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. This influential work is expected to shape the world of work for a generation.

The challenge

Technological, societal and economic change has led to the emergence of a new world of work. The ‘gig economponents argue that the gig economy creates greater flexibility and opportunities to work. Critics say that workers are open to exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

Concerned by this emerging picture, the UK government commissioned a wide-ranging review into the modern world of work to ensure that the British system is - or could be made - fit for purpose.

Pinsent Masons was invited to help shape policy in an area that will have an impact on working life for years to come, and could help safeguard many of society's most vulnerable workers.

The panel's main challenge was in finding ways to harness the benefits of a modern, flexible workforce while protecting the rights of individuals to have their work and lives respected and valued.

The majority of the report's 51 recommendations have been accepted entirely or taken on board for further consideration by the government. Diane's work will have a major influence on employment policy and practice for years to come.

The solution

The panel suggested 51 measures, many of which were innately legal. These included:

  • the introduction of a new designation of ‘dependant contractor’ for people who are eligible for worker rights but who are not employees, to prevent less scrupulous employers pushing people into self-employment to avoid worker rights and tax obligations;
  • entitlement to a written statement on employment particulars to all workers;
  • reviewing consultation arrangements for workers in the broadest sense;
  • giving zero hours contractors and agency workers the right to request more
  • formal contracts;
  • introducing statutory powers to ‘name and shame’ employers who disregard their obligations and don’t pay Employment Tribunal awards and where there are requests for more formal contracts.

The result

The majority of the report's 51 recommendations have been accepted entirely or taken on board for further consideration by the government.

The Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development said that the review would "change how we look at the world of work". The British Chamber of Commerce welcomed "common sense changes where grey areas have emerged in recent years", and conciliation service Acas said that the review "has raised the profile of the debate".

The UK government is examining specific recommendations on agency workers, employee status, increasing transparency in workplace relations and enforcement of employment rights. The expectation is that the first changes will be implemented during 2019.

Our people continue to lobby hard for the implementation of the changes proposed, and is collaborating with clients to encourage them to adopt revised working practices aligned to the proposals.

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