Written submission from SAFERjobs Community Interest Company (ULM0070)


Post-pandemic economic growth: UK labour markets – Call for Evidence

Link to online CfE overview and submission


3. Workers’ rights and protections

How can the Government improve employment rights, following Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic?

  1. In June 2021, JobsAware surveyed over 2000 workers and work-seekers, following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, and found that nearly 60% felt that employment rights had remained the same or gotten worse since the pandemic. Almost 40% suggested they would accept worse employment conditions than they would have previously. Employment rights in the UK are generally considered above average compared to other areas of the world, so it is important that, in light of the notable changes in the perception of employment rights since the pandemic (and Brexit), UK government should first look to better protect the employment rights that already exist. One of the ways that this could be achieved is by joining up the messages from UK government with the work of ACAS to reach and educate a large portion of the workforce. Additionally, moving forward with the Single Enforcement Body plans would allow a more joined up approach to regulation and enforcement of employment rights. However, should the Single Enforcement Body not move ahead then UK government will need to identify other ways to protect worker rights and improve standards.
  2. There are areas of the UK labour market however, where employment rights are limited or missing compared to others, with these gaps having been extrapolated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. One of these areas is umbrella company workers, whose employers currently remain largely unregulated or unmonitored. Some form of regulation in this area would allow UK government to improve employment rights for a growing group of workers. A second area is the growth in, what JobsAware have labelled, the “platformisation” of online recruitment. Innovative, digital models in this area are moving past the first traditional job board structure, to provide full recruitment services via digital, unregulated platforms, circumventing legislation such as the Conduct of Employment Agency Regulations.
  4. Many of these gaps were identified in the Taylor Review, so government would benefit from undertaking a follow-up to the Taylor Review.


How can the right balance be struck between the flexibility the UK economy needs and protections for workers?


  1. To strike a balance between economic needs and the protection of worker rights, co-regulation should be explored within the labour market. Robust industry accreditation in line with government regulation should be designed to ensure the right balance between raising standards, protecting workers and a sensible approach for business.
  2. There is already a Steering Committee in place chaired by JobsAware mapping out potential co-regulatory schemes in the flexible labour market. One example of where this is already being considered is within the online recruitment industry. Following recommendations in the most recent Labour Market Enforcement Strategy from Matthew Taylor (in which it was noted that “the online jobs sector is poorly regulated”), some of the UK’s largest job boards and platforms have come together with JobsAware (a brand of SAFERjobs C.I.C) to work on designing and implementing a robust accreditation across their sector, underpinned by UKAS and supported by BEIS.
  3. Regulating and enforcing employment rights in this co-regulatory way means that government is able to work alongside industry and third-sector to build regulation that strikes the right balance across stakeholder needs.


What can the Government do to improve protection for people in low-paid work and the gig economy?

  1. There are two activities that JobsAware recommend Government do to improve protection for people in low-paid work and the gig economy. The first of these is regulation. Regulation in the gig economy currently lags behind regulation of traditional recruitment agencies. The potential for regulation, or co-regulation, should be explored for the gig economy, which is already at its height with the number of workers active within it, and showing signs of further growth.
  2. The second activity is greater communication of worker rights directly to the worker. The JobsAware platform, supported by HMRC, BEIS, Home Office, DLME, and others, provides free, comprehensive advice on one platform to flexible workers. The platform also provides opportunity for work seekers and workers to report any issues, concerns, and problems they face. This platform, promoted by many UK job boards, recruitment agencies, and umbrella companies should be promoted to gig workers via Apps and payslips to workers in the gig economy. The intelligence gathered by JobsAware is used with government regulators to help ensure intelligent enforcement.




  1. The Government announced, but has not yet published, a new statutory code to prevent unscrupulous employers using fire and rehire tactics. What should this new code include to be an effective deterrent against that practice?


  1. The new code should, as a minimum, include:


Are updates to employment law required to match the increased amount of work being undertaken from home?

  1. No specific changes needed to match increased home working but there are changes needed to the way employers hire. This has started with the excellent changes to digital right to work checks, but only for those people with in date visas or passports, for British nationals with expired or no passports (1 in 5 according to the 2011 Census) they will only be able to get a job by visiting the employer to show their documents (or sending original documents by post which people do not want to do at risk of loss or theft). As many businesses are now digital, or at least with fewer physical premises, this is a large barrier to getting remote work. Also, the people most disadvantaged by this are those already most disadvantaged as they are in the regions of the UK where there are the least employment opportunities (traditional employment blackspots). Large organisations have moved to remote working during the pandemic in areas of the UK where work is most needed, but this will be reversed from September 30 if the current policy is not revised).
  2. The above is a specific example, but overall hiring needs to become faster (remote by technology), fairer (better transparency, levelling up of job opportunities), as well as safer.


4. Employment status and modern working practices five years on from the Taylor Review

  1. How are working patterns changing in the UK? To what extent is the gig economy growing and permanent full-time employment contracts in decline?
  2. The size of the gig economy is growing at exponential rates – the Guardian in November 2021 noted 4.4 million UK workers now working within the UK gig economy, a number which has doubled in 5 years. This represents 15% of UK workers now being paid by gig economy platforms. Continued growth is expected. There are a number of reasons for its growth, including the typical flexible nature of the work involved, and the need for citizens to earn more money to compete with the cost of living rises.
  3. The flexible nature of gig economy work also binds well with the move to more online, remote working taking place, expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. The popularity of digital and online working is giving rise to other recruitment and talent models, whose digital, remote nature  allow them to seemingly circumvent traditional recruitment regulations.
  4. Furthermore, moves to remote working are allowing businesses to conduct their work, and even their employment processes remotely, therefore making offshoring of their business operations a more viable and attractive option.



What should the Government be doing five years on from the Taylor review of modern working practices to address the issues raised in that report?

  1. There are two recommendations from the Taylor Review which, five years on, look not to have moved forward. JobsAware recommend that Government start with these.
  2. The first is the move toward a Single Enforcement Body or find an equivalent model to drive the agenda.
  3. The other is the regulation and enforcement of umbrella companies. Alongside the gig economy, the use of umbrella companies continues to grow, in part due to the perceived benefits to workers. JobsAware found earlier this year that 39% of individuals who had considered working through an umbrella company felt they would receive greater benefits, whereas only 22% of those who actually worked for an umbrella company felt they really experienced greater benefits. In terms of umbrella company compliance with law, only 42% of those who work or had previously worked with an umbrella company said they had received terms of employment from their umbrella company, with even less (32%) receiving a payslip. JobsAware were disappointed to find that 1 in 5 individuals who had worked for an umbrella company, felt that they had no other choice but to do so.
  4. These statistics are an example of how strong the need for greater regulation is within the umbrella company sector. Co-regulation in this area is an option, as there are umbrella companies who have worked with JobsAware over the last year to try and improve standards for workers within their industry.


How have employee demands and employer offers of flexible working been affected by the pandemic? How should this affect Government plans and commitments around flexible working?

  1. A lack of an overall, strategic UK labour market strategy that brings strategic policy matters together at the highest level, convened by BEIS, to address macro trends, changes, and needs of the UK. The UK has a labour market enforcement strategy but not a labour market strategy and this is seen as a must to be better prepared for current future macro changes in the labour market.
  2. The pandemic created more of an expectation for home and remote working, increased flexibility. Could become a big disrupter to traditional full time employment models in future as employers become more used to remote, project-based working.


Are there particular types of work, for example night-time or shift work, which warrant further consideration in respect of the impact of that work on workers?

  1. Shift based economy, gig economy, and other areas of flexible work should be looked at further. Already significant regulation in the recruitment agency sector, but very little in emerging parts of the labour market. Digitisation is progressing the move to platform based work and disrupting traditional ideas of recruitment agencies for example, who can now operate entirely digitally based outside of the UK and therefore outside of UK government jurisdiction.