The year ahead: ‘Government can focus on creating the conditions for good work for all’

In our January issue, CSW asks experts to give their thoughts on the new government’s policy priorities. In this entry, RSA chief executive, and interim director of labour market enforcement at BEIS, Matthew Taylor looks at the government’s work on work

Photo: PA

By Matthew Taylor

23 Jan 2020

The new government has been elected in part by people who would not normally think of voting Conservative. Many of these people don’t feel they are sharing in the UK’s prosperity. They will be hoping the government has a strategy for them.

I hope that taking forward the Good Work Plan – based on my report for Theresa May – will be a part of this strategy. This is important to economic dynamism as well as social justice. New research from the Warwick Institute of Employment Research, to be published later this month, will show the strength of the relationship between “good work” and improving the UK’s currently disappointing productivity performance. If prosperity isn't shared with workers and if the labour market doesn't deliver good work, then we stand little chance of boosting our productivity in the long run. The research shows that bringing the pay and security of those at the bottom of the labour market much closer to the average will have the biggest impact.

The government is committed to an Employment Act and the creation of new integrated Single Enforcement Body. These are good opportunities and I will be pressing the government to be ambitious. But legislation can only do so much, which is why we need to be encouraging employers to change their practices so that decent pay is the norm. The RSA Future Work Centre is currently working with firms to see how – in the context of greater automation – a focus on good work can improve productivity at a company level.

Government cannot do everything, but it can focus on creating the conditions for good work for all, so that people in low-skilled jobs have more control over their working hours, benefit from a sense of progression and lifelong learning, are aware of their rights at work and ultimately see the link between hard work and fair pay restored.

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