Following the omission of the Employment Bill from the Queen’s Speech, the government has announced a new review into the future of work led by MP Matt Warman. The review will be conducted in the spring and summer of 2022, with a written report, which will include recommendations, to be submitted to the Prime Minister. The focus will be on “how the government can best support a thriving future UK labour market”.
The purpose of the review is stated to be to guide and inform the government’s priorities to ensure that the UK labour market is primed and ready to seize the opportunities of Brexit, the levelling up agenda and net zero. It is to be conducted in two parts:
- a high level assessment of the strategic issues affecting the future of work; and
- a more detailed assessment of specific areas of focus selected from the first phase.
The purpose of the review is not to focus on every challenge facing the future labour market, but rather to focus on areas where policy thinking is relatively undeveloped, where the most argument exists or where the size of the opportunity for change is the greatest. The terms of reference produced by the government suggest that the review may consider the following topics:
- the importance of place and local labour markets in creating and facilitating access to good jobs;
- the role of automation and how quickly it is happening; and/or
- improving and building upon the “good” flexibility in the labour market, including the gig economy, whilst ensuring sufficient protections exist to prevent exploitative practices.
Following the government response to the Taylor review (published in 2017), the government seeks to build on existing commitments and to identify key areas for further change as it looks to “build back better” from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A key aim of the review is to ensure that the government is equipped to help more people into high wage and high skilled jobs regardless of their background.
For employers, at the moment, it remains a case of wait and see. It is unclear at this early stage what impacts there will be for employers and employment law more generally. More details should emerge as the year progresses and there is to be engagement with experts on labour market policy throughout the review. There is little for employers to do for now, except wait and see.