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New government ‘future of work’ review: what’s in it for contractors?

2-minute read

Sam Bromley

24 May 2022

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The government has announced a ‘future of work’ review, which aims to find key areas of the flexible labour market to focus on as the UK recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

But the recent Queen’s Speech had no news about previously proposed employment law changes.

The government has so far failed to make changes suggested by previous reviews and consultations, which could improve life for contractors and the self-employed. This has made some experts tired of more talk instead of concrete action.

Future of work: what should contractors and the self-employed know?

The review will focus “narrowly on a few selected areas of policy” related to strategic issues the UK faces regarding the future of work.

Its objectives are to:

  • build on existing commitments (including those from the Good Work Plan, like giving contractors more clarity on employment status and rights), which tackle key issues related to the future of work
  • give a detailed assessment of selected issues (engaging with independent experts, academics, think tanks, relevant government departments, and comparing the UK with other countries)
  • make recommendations to guide long-term strategic policy for the labour market

Specific elements of the future of work that the review might reference include:

  • how important local labour markets are in creating and opening up access to good jobs
  • the pace of automation and its role in the future of work
  • building on the current flexibility of the labour market (while preventing workers from being exploited), encouraging productivity and growth

New review 'ridiculous' considering no action on previous suggestions

The new review has been announced after the employment bill was notably absent from the Queen’s Speech.

The employment bill is expected to cover flexible working rights, create a body to regulate umbrella companies, and give workers the right to ask for a more stable employment contract.

Of those, contractors and the self-employed may be affected by the continued lack of umbrella company regulation. While many umbrella companies are legitimate, some operate scams that tempt contractors with promises around higher pay. These schemes are usually a form of tax avoidance.

Referring to previous reviews and recommendations, Julia Kermode, founder of IWORK, said: “it seems unforgivable that agreed changes which would benefit large swathes of our workforce have not been implemented.”

Writing on LinkedIn, IR35 expert Rebecca Seeley Harris said the review “seems absolutely ridiculous considering they haven't responded to most of the previous reviews.”

However, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) welcomed the review: “Technological changes such as automation and virtual working, as well as a shift in attitudes to work which has been compounded by the pandemic, mean that traditional 9-to-5 employment is likely to become less common. It is essential that policymakers understand these changes, so that they can design public policy around how people increasingly want to shape their working lives.”

They also added that the government should build on the recommendations made by previous reviews.

What do you think about the government’s new review? Let us know in the comments below.

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