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Good Work? How the Mayor’s new Standard could help prevent exploitation in London

August 7, 2017

This year the Mayor of London will publish his Good Work Standard, which aims to promote economic fairness and ‘make London the best place in the world to work’. Employers across London will show their commitment to good work by signing up to the Standard, which will include essential requirements, such as paying the London Living Wage, and will set out further goals including best practice on flexible working, diversity and development of skills. The consultation process to establish the core standards and goals towards which employers should strive is ongoing, and the Mayor is consulting with businesses, organisations, unions and others to find out what London thinks good work should look like. You can read FLEX’s submission in full here.

With its emphasis on ‘good work’, the Mayor’s Standard echoes the recent government-commissioned Taylor review of modern employment practices, which focussed on how to achieve decent work for all. It offers an opportunity to raise the bar for London employers, promoting good practice and positive employment relationships. However, this shift in tone in policy towards finding innovative ways to improve the ‘quality’ of work – with words like ‘flexibility’ and ‘choice’ at the forefront of the debate – is set against a backdrop of media exposes revealing extremely poor working conditions in companies like Sports Direct, and a growing number of cases of gig economy workers fighting to have their basic employment rights recognised. As FLEX has argued, not all workers have the kind of choice that enables them to access the benefits of flexibility, and many lose out and some suffer exploitation as a result. If the goal is to move beyond minimum standards to achieve high quality work for everyone, it is clear that we must first get the basics right.

If the Mayor is serious about tackling inequality and unfairness in the workplace, he must ensure that businesses and organisations in London have in place clear, accessible mechanisms for employees to raise concerns, empowering workers to speak out and challenge abuse. Clarity around employment status is key, and workers must have access to information about their rights at work and what to do if these rights are abused. The right to freedom of association and collective bargaining must be afforded to all workers, to ensure they are informed, supported and equipped to resolve problems and challenge unfair treatment.

It is right that employers should be recognised and rewarded for their efforts to improve standards and provide a positive, rewarding working environment. Workers’ voices should play a key role in the development and implementation of this Standard, to ensure that the Standard is meaningful and change is sustainable. If we can achieve a good standard of work for everyone and stamp out abuse in the workplace, we will be well on the way to preventing labour exploitation in London.

The Mayor’s consultation on the Good Work Standard runs until 14th August – see here for information on how to submit a response.