Blair's ex-policy chief to lead employment practices review


Theresa May has brought in Tony Blair's former policy chief to carry out a review of employment practices aimed at improving job security and rights for "ordinary working people".

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, will look at whether regulations are keeping pace with the "radically" changing labour market in a shake-up that will "prioritise the interests of the growing army of people working in new ways".

The focus on protections for workers is in stark contrast to predecessor David Cameron, who oversaw reforms of employment law to ensure that they would no longer be seen as a "barrier to growth".

Mrs May's pitch for the centre ground ahead of the Conservative Party's autumn conference on Sunday comes as Labour continues to tack to the left under Jeremy Corbyn.

Around one in five workers are now self-employed or are on zero hour or temporary contracts and the review will be aimed at ensuring "no-one is left behind in the workplace".

Mrs May said: "We are building a new centre ground in British politics; improving the security and rights of ordinary working people is a key part of building a country and an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

"Flexibility and innovation are a vital part of what makes our economy strong, but it is essential that these virtues are combined with the right support and protections for workers.

"The UK has one of the strongest labour markets in the world - with record numbers of people in work and an unemployment rate almost half the EU average.

"That's a proud record, but if we are to build a country that works for everyone - not just the privileged few - we need to be certain that employment regulation and practices are keeping pace with the changing world of work."

Around six million workers are not covered by standard workplace rights and the number is set to continue to grow.

The review will look at security, pay and rights as well as the ways that such workers are represented overseas, such as the California App-Based Drivers Association, which lobbies companies such as Uber on behalf of drivers.

It will also examine whether there are ways to increase opportunities for carers, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Mr Taylor, former head of the Labour Policy Unit, said: "It is very encouraging that the Prime Minister, in one of her first acts, has asked me to chair an independent review to look into how we can best respond to the rapidly changing world of work so it delivers for ordinary people.

"New forms of employment have many advantages for workers and consumers but there are challenges and risks. We need to approach this issue with an open mind, recognising that within our flexible system of employment the same type of contract can have a diverse range of impacts on the people who use them.

"That the Prime Minister has chosen to prioritise the interests of the growing army of people working in new ways sends an important message.

"As well as getting to grips with the key trends and issues, I intend for the review team to get out and about across Britain hearing at first hand how people's experience of work affects their daily lives."

It comes as the national minimum wage for young workers increases, with employees aged between 18-24 receiving a 25p an hour hike and rates for 16 to 17-year-olds going up by 13p hour.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "The technological revolution has allowed hundreds of thousands of new businesses to thrive and is transforming the world of work.

"These changes are bringing great opportunities but it is right that the Government is looking to mitigate the unintended consequences of these new models of employment.

"It is important that the Government works to ensure our employment regulations and definitions are flexible so that we protect workers and give them access to training and development, while still enabling innovation and enterprise to prosper."

Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that big businesses are "angering their consumers" over excessive pay for bosses and poor workers' rights.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "Business needs to understand - and I think business does understand - in the wider context it isn't sustainable to have large household brand-name businesses angering their consumers.

"Their consumers, our voters, must be important to them and their reputation. Their image with their consumers must be important to them."

He added: "Recognising the mood music that we see in the UK from the referendum, many European countries in all sorts of demonstrations of popular sentiment, in the US with the phenomenon of the Trump campaign - I think business needs to respond to that in a measured and sensible way."