The UK government has just released new proposals on workers’ rights. In them, they announce some key employment law changes that you need to be aware of. The ambitious package of workplace reforms, which is reported as the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in more than twenty years, has been put together for the purpose of getting work right for British workers and businesses.
Overall, the measures announced in The Good Work Plan will give ‘atypical’ workers, such as temporary staff and those on zero-hour contracts or casual contracts, more rights and protections.
As part of the UK government’s long-term strategy to build a Britain fit for the future, the changes to workers’ rights aim to build a fairer economy for everyone.
Why the proposed changes?
The changes come in response to an independent review into modern working practices led by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts.
The Taylor Review highlighted several recommendations necessary to reform modern work, including laws on self-employment.
Further efforts have been made to position the UK as a world leader on workers’ rights and provide better protection for workers. The proposal announced today, introduced as the Good Work Plan, also includes a response to the Labour Market Strategy and plans to clamp down on the exploitation of low-paid workers.
Sir David Metcalf, Director of Labour Market Enforcement said he was pleased and welcomes the government’s response.
What are the changes?
There is no timetable yet for the majority of the changes and no legislation is included in the plan. The key proposals are outlined below.
The Good Work Plan measures include:
- The government has committed to legislation to streamline the employment status tests so they are the same for employment and tax purposes, and to avoid employers misclassifying employees/workers as self-employed.
• Firms will have to provide a ‘statement of rights’ on day one of a person’s employment – this will include all casual workers and those on zero hours. The statement will clarify employee rights and set out pay, as well as any relevant leave entitlements such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave.
• The holiday pay reference period has been extended from 12 to 52 weeks to make sure that seasonal workers acquire the appropriate amount of paid time off when averaging pay.
• To protect the pay of agency staff by removing the ability to pay them cheaper rates then their permanent counterparts. The practice is known as the Swedish Derogation.
• Proposal to give those working variable hours/zero hours a right to request a fixed working pattern after 26 weeks’ continuous service.
• Proposal to change the rules on continuity of employment, so that a break of up to four weeks (currently one week) between contracts will not interrupt continuity.
• A ban on employers making deductions from staff tips.
• Quadrupling the maximum fine at an employment tribunal if an employer is deemed to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight. The maximum fine rises from £5,000 to £20,000.
What else might I need to know?
Whilst the reforms to workers’ rights have been a long time coming and will make a difference to those on casual and zero-hour contracts, they have received some criticism from unions who say that more can be done. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of The Trades Union Congress comments:
“The right to request guaranteed working hours is no right at all. Unless unions get the right to organise and bargain for workers in places like Uber and Amazon, too many working people will continue to be treated like disposable labour”.
A ban on zero-hour contracts has not been included in the Good Work Plan as the government believes this “would negatively impact more people than it helps”.
What do I need to do?
At this stage there are no fine details or dates of when these proposed changes will be implemented. However, it is worth considering the above implications and addressing where they could impact your business.
Clarifying employment status and legislation is something that The HR Dept has been campaigning for and one we would welcome.