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Law School academics respond to proposed employment policy reforms

Press release issued: 28 November 2017

Law School academics Dr. Katie Bales, Professor Alan Bogg and Professor Tonia Novitz have written a Policy Bristol report that presents an evidence informed response to the Taylor Review.

'Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices' was published in July 2017, following concerns about exploitation in the ‘gig economy’ and aiming to address challenges faced by the UK labour market. The independent review set out to assess the effects of new forms of work on worker roles and rights, and to lay out several principles to handle the challenges facing the UK labour market.

Three Bristol Law School academics, Dr Katie Bales, Professor Alan Bogg and Professor Tonia Novitz, have written a Bristol Policy report that responds to the Taylor Review: ‘'Choice’ and ‘voice’ in modern working practices; an evidence informed response to the Taylor Review'. Within their report they outline the Review’s background and examine its reforms and proposals, following these up with a response in which the academics analyse the proposals and submit their recommendations.

One of the issues covered is the treatment of employment status. To promote clarity and simplicity within this area the Taylor Review suggests the creation of definitive employment tests along with an outline of their principles in legislation. In its response, the Policy Bristol report describes the complexity of employment relationships, which are often circumstantial and subject to development according to economic demand. It argues that drafting such legislation would be an extremely difficult task and that defined employment status tests ‘would likely limit the scope of courts in dealing with novel situations which do not fit a tick box exercise’. Far from clarifying worker status issues, such a test would cause complications for different types of workers and would destabilise boundaries between ‘employee’ and ‘worker’.

Other issues explored include zero hour contracts and the role envisaged for collective ‘voice’ in the contemporary workplace. The Bristol Policy report’s conclusion points to problematic recommendations within Taylor’s Report, which is described as methodologically unsound, neglecting international labour standards and human rights, with proposals not only offering little opportunity for work improvements but presenting a greater likelihood of creating confusion rather than certainty.

The Policy Bristol report is available here: PolicyBristol Report October 2017 Taylor Review (PDF, 452kB).

Find out more about the Taylor Review: Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices

Further information

Katie Bales is Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol. Her research interests include nationalism and the development of social policy; the asylum support system; the legal implications of immigration raids; and labour within immigration detention.

Alan Boggs is Professor of Labour Law at the University of Bristol. His research interest centre on general fields of labour, employment and work laws, with an interest in exploring these areas from philosophical, doctrinal and comparative perspectives. 

Tonia Novitz is Professor of Labour Law at the University of Bristol. Her research interests focus predominantly on labour law, international and EU trade and the protection of human rights.

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