Employment practices review ‘will not deliver unions all they want’
Matthew Taylor said up to three quarters of workers wanted flexible arrangements and warned against changing these.
An eagerly awaited review into employment practices is set to be published next month but will not give unions everything they are seeking, its chairman said.
Matthew Taylor said he hopes his report will make it easier to argue about the importance of quality jobs and two-way flexibility for workers such as those in the gig economy.
But he told a TUC conference that up to three out of four workers wanted flexible arrangements and changing that was the “last thing we should do”.
Mr Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair who is now chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, said his report was probably a couple of weeks away from publication.
The Government appointed him last year amid growing union anger at the increase in zero-hours contracts and insecure work such as involuntary self-employment.
Mr Taylor told the audience of union officials and campaign groups that flexibility was a good thing, with other countries envying the UK system.
Between two-thirds and three-quarters of those working flexibly want to work that way, he said.
“One of the considerations for me is that while thinking about exploitation, I don’t want people to say they don’t want to be protected if it affects the way they want to work. Banning something is not responsible public policy.”
Mr Taylor said two-way flexibility was a good thing, highlighting a recent visit to a supermarket which has developed an app showing workers which stores were offering overtime.
“That is very different from one-way flexibility, where there is an attempt to shift risk entirely on to the shoulders of workers.”
Replying to his speech, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “I don’t meet many two-way flexible workers – only one-way and it needs to change.
“If it is going to be genuinely two-way, workers should have the right to a contract, not just the right to ask for one.”
The TUC launched a new drive to make sure workers are paid the rate for their jobs, giving them the chance to “score ” their employer.
Under a Great Jobs Agenda, the TUC wants workers to check if women are paid fairly, workplaces are safe and disabled people and parents are supported.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said there had been a huge increase in zero-hours contracts, low-paid jobs and “false” self-employment, adding: “We need change.”