By Caitlin Powell
The same week experts lamented the omission of an employment bill in this year’s Queen’s Speech, the prime minister announced he has commissioned a new review on the future of work.
The review, which will be led by the Conservative MP Matt Warman, will look at how the government can best support the labour market in a post-COVID, post-Brexit environment. “Businesses big and small have evolved how they work hugely in the last two years, and employees today need different skills and protections to thrive,” said Warman.
However, while it has been five years since the Taylor review on good work was published, many of its 53 recommendations have still not been translated into legislation – something many had hoped the long-awaited employment bill would have changed. Does that mean now is not the right time for another review?
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Not necessarily. Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, welcomes the review, arguing that regularly assessing areas of performance is a key part of any business operation.
“Even if the review comes back to say no further changes are needed, it shows that the current measures are beneficial and keep employees motivated, so it is a useful initiative,” she says.
And while this latest stock-take was “unlikely” to bring any significant changes to workers’ rights, Palmer says employers may wish to prepare for a new Kickstart-like scheme or potentially even reforms to the apprenticeship and training structure.
Campaigns and content director at Business in the Community (BITC), Nishi Mayor similarly welcomes the decision to open another review. But, she is sceptical about any potential outcomes.
“This review should not replace the legislation needed to support both employers and employees,” she said. “The Employment Bill was promised in 2019 but now three years later, we have not heard anything about it.”
Emma Stewart, co-founder of Timewise, also has mixed feelings. She welcomes the opportunity to look into whether the UK’s labour market is fit for the future, but not if it becomes “just another talking shop”.
“We already have the Flexible Working Taskforce and numerous other committees,” she tells People Management. “This isn’t a new debate [and firms] are not short of ideas and solutions… to design work that both drives future economic growth and gives fair access and opportunity to all.”
What businesses do need right now, Stewart says, is targeted investment to scale these solutions.
This is echoed by Ian Moore, managing director of Lodge Court. “There have already been many studies like this conducted across the world so I’m unsure what this will produce that is different,” he says.
He adds that the scope of this latest review is narrow, and raises concerns that business leaders could be left out of any consultation – potentially missing an important practical perspective. The government announced that Warman will work with experts on labour market policy across government, parliament, academia and think tanks – but business organisations were not mentioned.
“[It is] great to focus on flexibility and the gig economy, but tax rates should be reviewed too,” Moore adds.