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A Better Recovery

Learning the lessons of the corona crisis to create a stronger, fairer economy
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Executive summary

Decent work and a new way of doing business

Coronavirus has shone a spotlight into the world of work, revealing significant weaknesses in the way that work is organised and rewarded in the UK. Everyone has had to make huge changes to how they work, but the vast gulf in pay, security and voice at work has made this much easier for some than for others. The economic impact has fallen unequally, in many cases mirroring existing inequalities and in others creating new ones. It is an indictment of our economic system that many of what we now know are essential jobs are low paid and insecure. It is time to re-evaluate the value placed on different jobs, make sure all workers have a voice at work, and change business models to put fair employment at their heart.

Our proposals include:

  • raising the national minimum wage to £10 an hour
  • a ban on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment
  • ensuring all workers are automatically put into an occupational pension scheme with sufficient contributions for a decent standard of living in retirement
  • proposals to boost collective bargaining, including union access to workplaces
  • adopting new business models to deliver workforce voice in corporate governance and reform of corporate purpose
  • giving workers a voice at the heart of government through a National Recovery Council bringing together workers and employers, mirrored at regional and sectoral level
  • government support for business taking the form of equity stakes and being conditional on business putting in place fair pay and employment plans.

Equality at work

Women, disabled people and BME groups are disproportionately likely to be on low incomes and in insecure jobs, and thus to have been most significantly affected by the pandemic. As we build back from the virus, tackling the causes of disadvantage and inequality is essential to prevent us moving back decades on equality.

We need urgent action to tackle disadvantage and discrimination faced by BME people, women and disabled people in the labour market.

Our proposals include:

  • government prioritising compliance with its public sector equality duty, including equality impact assessing its policy decisions
  • a day-one right to flexible working for all workers
  • improving resourcing for Access to Work
  • strengthening protections for pregnant women and new mothers
  • regular reports to parliament on progress on addressing discrimination and disadvantage.

A real safety net

Even before coronavirus crisis hit the UK, it was clear that our welfare safety net was broken. Now many more people must rely on it as their income disappears in the wake of the virus. We need an urgent plan to create a safety net that provides financial support and security for those who need it most.

Our proposals include:

  • reforming universal credit so that it pays more, is open to more people and starts supporting people immediately
  • giving more support to families, and removing the benefits cap and conditionality
  • raising the weekly level of statutory sick pay to £320 a week and removing the lower earnings limit
  • establishing a jobs guarantee scheme
  • maintaining the state pension triple lock and putting state pension age increases on hold.

Rebuilding public services

Months of clapping for carers must be followed by years of investment, enabling a secure and decently paid workforce to deliver the services we need. As we emerge from the crisis, government must not only ensure we recover from the pandemic, and reward those workers who cared for us, but also undo the damage of the decade of austerity that left us so underprepared.

Our proposals include:

  • delivering a pay rise for public sector workers
  • funding a new settlement for social care and working with unions and employers to deliver a sector-wide workforce strategy
  • ending outsourcing across public services
  • ensuring a new funding settlement for the NHS, local government, education and all public services.

Sustainable industry

We need to stimulate demand as we build out of the crisis. The government should set up a plan towards net zero carbon and a just transition for workers across the economy, rebuilding the UK’s industrial capacity and tackling the UK’s regional inequalities that reflect failed deindustrialisation.

Our proposals include:

  • tasking a new just transition commission with setting up a recovery programme that delivers thousands of new jobs and reduces carbon
  • ensuring that every government investment project comes with an Olympics-style plan for decent jobs
  • supporting workers to get new jobs, with a jobs guarantee scheme and a funded right to retrain
  • increasing the requirement for local content in government investment programmes to rebuild UK manufacturing supply chains.

Rebuilding internationalism

The rules that govern our international systems for trade and finance often damage the interests of poorer countries and make it harder for working people across the world to be paid fairly for their labour, driving down regulatory standards and working conditions. The impacts of the pandemic have been made worse by the lack of global rules on workers’ rights and social protections.

Our proposals include:

  • establishing a global fund to support health care and income support for countries in the global south
  • using a new model of trade to promote development, gender equality, decent jobs and universal quality public services
  • reforming supranational organisations including the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund and World Bank so that they promote decent work, gender equality, public services, human rights, just transition and the UN sustainable development goals.

Paying for itself

As we emerge from this pandemic, we must not repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when severe cuts in public spending stifled economic demand and sluggish growth led to lower government revenues from taxation. Instead, austerity’s vicious circle must be replaced by the virtuous circle of investment and full employment.

By taking the measures in this report, we will create:

  • higher levels of disposable income, creating higher economic demand, more sustainable tax revenues, and ultimately, sustainable public finances
  • more sustainable supply chains, in which the value created is divided more fairly among participants in the chain
  • revitalised public services and an effective safety net, which can better support economic risk taking
  • a system in which finance supports the needs of the real economy, rather than the other way round.
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