Theresa May appoints Blair policy expert to review employment law

Jake Cordell
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Deliveroo app
Deliveroo has been in the spotlight over its employment practices (Source: Getty)

Theresa May has appointed one of Tony Blair's top advisers to lead a new review into employment rights across the new economy.

Matthew Taylor, who was head of the influential Number 10 Policy Unit between 2003 and 2006, will be tasked with creating a new framework of employment rights and protections for the millions of people who do not work in a traditional nine-to-five full-time role.

The review will look at the rise of self-employed workers, freelancers, the so-called gig economy and growing prevalence of portfolio careers to address concerns about a lack of protections which workers on these kinds of roles may suffer. For instance, self-employed workers are typically disadvantaged when it comes to parental leave, holiday and sick pay, and pensions.

Around six million people are "not covered by the standard suite of workplace rights," Taylor estimated. He added: "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."

The number of people classified as self-employed by the Office for National Statistics has grown by 47 per cent since 2000, while the number of employed people has risen by just 13 per cent over the same period.

Recent high-profile debates over pay and conditions at the likes of Uber and Deliveroo, which claim to operate in the sharing economy and rely on self-employed workers, has raised the issue of employment rights to the top of the agenda for the new Prime Minister.

Theresa May has sought to brandish her One Nation credentials since she became Prime Minister and appears to be taking a more interventionist line in terms of company and employment law. Along with this latest review she has sought to make corporate governance and tackling excessive executive pay one of her flagship policies.

The appointment of Taylor, who was instrumental in writing both the 1997 and 2005 Labour manifestos and is now chief executive of the RSA, was also seen as the latest tactical move to position the party on some areas which may traditionally have been seen as Labour territory.

Deborah Mattinson, founder of the Britain Thinks research group said it was an "interesting" choice, describing the move as a "centre ground land grab".

Welcoming the review, Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills at the employers' group the Institute of Directors said: "The technological revolution has allowed 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 that these new models can have on employees.

"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."

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