The government this week responded to the Taylor Review with its ‘Good Work Plan’, promising to raise awareness of employment rights among businesses and workers (but barely offering any new ones) and to place heavier sanctions on those who break the law (but only for the worst offenders).
It is notable, however, that the Good Work Plan falls short of even Taylor’s recommendations, which themselves were widely criticised for tinkering around the edges without committing to the much-needed reform of a system that has favoured individual protections over collective ones, weakening workers’ rights overall, since the Thatcher years.
For instance, the government does not commit to ending so-called Swedish Derogation laws, which allow agency workers to be paid less than permanent colleagues doing the same job. Instead, it has launched yet another consultation into the issue.
The proposals touch on issues around pay, employment status, quality of work, and transparency, but hardly broach employee engagement despite the weight that Taylor put on the urgent need for workers to have a stronger voice at work. Trade unions and their vital role in this were not mentioned at all.
Raising awareness of existing rights is not enough when the system continues to rely on workers to police their own rights, often on an individual basis. The Institute of Employment Rights recommends the establishment of an Independent Labour Inspectorate to monitor compliance with the law, and with the power to rectify breaches; the repeal of laws that weaken trade union rights, so that workers can better hold their employers to account; the re-instatement of sectoral collective bargaining, so that workers can negotiate for better pay and conditions; and the reinstatement of a Ministry of Labour to give workers a voice in parliament.
Read more about the government’s policies and the IER’s recommendations here.