Good morning from New Economy Brief.
Pay may be the hot issue for workers and their unions at the moment due to inflation, but it is far from the only topic to gather momentum recently.
One trend in recent policy discussions over work has been the centrality of time, with the 4 Day Week campaign the most famous example.
This week we explore another proposal around working time, the ‘Right to Disconnect’, explain how and why this issue has shot up the agenda, and offer some thoughts about the evolving politics of workers’ rights.
Labour backs new laws to improve work-life balance. The news that the Labour Party are set to propose the introduction of a new "right to disconnect" policy caused a stir in Westminster last week. This policy would grant employees the ability to disengage from work-related communication and tasks outside of their normal working hours, with the objective of addressing work-related stress and promoting a healthier work-life balance.
Part of Labour’s ‘New Deal for Working People’… The proposed policy is part of Labour’s wider package to improve working conditions and pay: the New Deal for Working People. The plan focuses on strengthening workers’ rights, improving job security, fair pay, work-life balance, health and safety and providing more education and training opportunities at work.
How would it work? A 2020 guide from Prospect looks at different approaches to the “right to disconnect” and how to ensure unions are involved in safeguarding workers’ well-being and rights as new technology changes how we work. There are three primary methods of implementing a Right to Disconnect:
Political analysis. The FT’s Stephen Bush thinks that the ‘right to disconnect’ “is a talker that, whether you are shaking your head at the prospect or counting the days until a Labour government implements it, will be broadly recognised by people in most workplaces. For good or for ill, it is going to define how a lot of people see Keir Starmer’s Labour party…ultimately the biggest change that Starmer’s Labour proposes to make to the UK’s economic model is to significantly increase the power of workers and trade unions”, which could be one “area of friction” for a minority Labour government reliant on Liberal Democrat support.
National Wealth Surplus. 8 in 10 Brits are concerned that the wealthy don’t contribute their fair share of taxes, according to new polling commissioned by the Fairness Foundation. The same public opinion research found that 68% of people (including 64% of 2019 Conservative voters) think the government should be doing more to tax high net worth individuals (those with £10m or more).
Patriotic Millionaire Rishi Sunak? Campaign group Patriotic Millionaires UK has called on Rishi Sunak to become a member of the group of millionaires and “deliver policies that raise taxes on himself”. The call comes as Sunak becomes the first sitting British Prime Minister to appear on the Sunday Times Rich List.
Is the UK on track? Despite the fact that the IMF has said that it no longer expects an imminent UK recession, the IPPR’s George Dibb argues that the UK is “off track” across “a whole range of policy areas” including growth, tax reform, business investment, net zero, energy security, public investment and public health. Dibb notes that the IMF advises greater “policy certainty”, which he argues points to a need for industrial strategy.
“Not having an industrial policy is itself an industrial policy”. Conservative Home’s William Atkinson argues that in order to compete with the US, China and the EU and to avoid becoming “outliers”, Rishi Sunak must introduce proper industrial strategy. Atkinson argues that while conservatives may be scared of the term ‘industrial strategy’, there is no option but to engage with it, saying that “it is a conscious choice not to co-ordinate investment towards a particular goal”.
Public opinion on climate spending. As rumours circulate that Labour’s commitment to £28 billion in climate investment might be under threat, the European Climate Foundation’s Leo Barasi explores public opinion on climate spending. Barasi argues that the climate pledge “gets widespread support across Labour’s voter coalition” including swing voters and, interestingly, is seen as a “special case worthy of borrowing for investment”.
Food prices and the cost of living crisis. The focus on energy prices in the cost of living debate “understates the growing role of food prices… in the squeeze on living standards that households – especially low- and middle-income households – are living through.” argues a new paper by the Resolution Foundation which explores the impact of food prices on inflation. It finds that “while energy’s role in this crisis may have peaked, that of food very much has not”.