Turn the personal allowance into a £2,500 cash payment for all
- RSA proposes the UK government turns the personal allowance into a universal cash payment of £2500 for all citizens, building on the existing tax-benefit infrastructure.
- JobCentres should be replaced with Swedish-style ‘job security councils’ to help workers in troubled sectors like retail, as threat of automation looms beyond the crisis.
- Workers in major firms should have stronger voice over new tech and restructuring, as happens in Germany.
The government must get cash to people now and provide targeted support to the most vulnerable workers and sectors to secure Britain's recovery, a major new report argues.
A Blueprint for Good Work by the RSA Future Work Centre says government, opposition parties, employers, unions, civil society and others must forge a new 'social contract' - the rights and responsibilities of different groups within society.
The culmination of years of research into economic insecurity and the gig economy, the report calls for a fairer deal for the nation’s growing precariat post-lockdown.
It calls for:
- Getting cash to people now, by introducing a modern safety net for all – initially piloted at £2,500 per year. This would use the existing tax infrastructure, turning the personal allowance into a direct cash payment that would initially sit alongside Universal Credit and other benefits. RSA modelling for the Scottish Government’s proposed basic income trials suggests giving every adult £2,500 would be affordable and leave workers on low and middle incomes better off. This could expand to a £5,000 universal basic income over time, combined with other benefits.
- A new Job Security Centre influenced by Swedish-style job security councils to retrain workers in troubled sectors like retail and tourism. This would involve powerful, union-led bodies in the delivery of retraining, replacing current labour market interventions like Jobcentre Plus with a more universal service.
- A long-term target for all major British firms to give workers a say on key management decisions about technology and restructuring, through democratic works councils, as happens in Germany.
- Ensuring gig economy workers can access the same benefits as contracted workers through a system of ‘portable benefits’. This would ensure access to benefits such as sick pay, holiday and pensions could be carried across from different platforms. For instance, a driver for Deliveroo would be able to carry their benefits across if they then chose to work for Uber Eats, or pool their benefits if working for both. This would provide gig economy workers with benefits they do not currently have (most do not have employee status, and therefore the rights workers enjoy) and provide greater bargaining power over their employers.
- Unions and government continuing to work together in the national interest – through more rights for trade unions, and BEIS funding for union innovation, on similar lines to the current UnionLearn model.
The RSA Future Work Centre builds on the work of the independent Taylor Review for then PM Theresa May. The current government is taking this forward through the Employment Bill, which accepts almost all of the report’s recommendations.
In April, the RSA Future Work Centre found that in some parts of the country more than 1 in 3 jobs could be at risk due to the economic uncertainty created by Covid-19.
In recent weeks, the seeds of a new social contract have been laid: the government's recovery strategy from Covid-19 calls for "new institutions" to aid the recovery; the TUC and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have been working together closely on job protections, and Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for a new "national consensus".
Alan Lockey, head of the RSA Future Work Centre, said:
"Tackling economic insecurity is essential to securing Britain’s recovery. That means getting cash to people now by turning the personal allowance into a universal cash payment, targeted help for the most troubled sectors, giving workers a greater say over new tech, stronger unions, and a new welfare settlement for gig economy workers.
“The conversation about how we build a better future beyond the pandemic must begin now – we already know the furlough scheme will end in October. The crisis can lead to positive change, but we need to be bold.”
Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:
"Now, more than ever, we need a vision for a new social contract, built around social justice, good work, and security for all. We cannot go back to a world where so many of our key workers are so badly underappreciated and undervalued. That is why this report and the ideas in it are so important. I hope it will play a key role in the debate about the society we want to build after the pandemic."
Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect Union said:
“Good and fulfilling work has to be at the heart of rebuilding our economy. This report sets out a clear roadmap for what that new social contract could look like based on a better, more secure future of work, and it should be read across the political spectrum.
“The RSA are right to argue that modernised trade unions should be at the heart of a new settlement between employers and workers, especially as technology transforms that relationship and upends previous certainties.
“But the report also rightly lays down the gauntlet to unions that to play this role we are going to have to change - it is a message all of us in the movement need to take on board, and fast.”
Ash Singleton, Head of Media and Communications, RSA: firstname.lastname@example.org, 07799 737 970.
The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an independent charity which believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.
Through our ideas, research and a 30,000 strong Fellowship, we are a global community of proactive problem solvers, sharing powerful ideas, carrying out cutting-edge research and building networks. We create opportunities for people to collaborate, influence, and demonstrate practical solutions to realise change.
Our work covers a number of areas including the rise of the 'gig economy', robotics & automation; education & creative learning; and reforming public services to put communities in control.
A ‘new deal’ for key workers — including a £500 thank you bonus, extended sick pay and paying the real living wage — is needed to reward them for their heroic efforts during the pandemic.