British Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a review of employment practices on Saturday, saying she wanted to ensure workers’ rights were protected under changing business models and a growing trend towards flexible or self-employment.
The review comes ahead of the ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference, May’s first as prime minister, at which she is expected to make her pitch to reunite a country divided by June’s European Union referendum and set our what a successful exit from the bloc will look like.
“We are building a new centre ground in British politics; improving the security and rights of ordinary working people is a key part of building a country and an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few,” May said in a statement.
Britain’s vote to leave the European Union was driven in part by a backlash against the political establishment among working class voters who believed their prospects had been badly damaged by the 2007/08 financial crisis and years of austerity.
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The review will look at whether existing employment law can cope with the country’s growing number of “non-standard forms of employment”, such as self-employment, temporary work or “zero-hours” contracts, which offer employees flexibility, but no guaranteed work.
Earlier this year, politicians condemned British retailer Sports Direct for effectively paying workers less than the minimum wage, while working conditions at taxi firm Uber have come under legal scrutiny. “New forms of employment have many advantages for workers and consumers but there are challenges and risks,” said Matthew Taylor, head of an arts charity and former government policy adviser who has been asked to lead the review.
“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.”
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