Away from the complications of Brexit, the Government is introducing workplace reforms which it says will be “far-reaching”.
Its aim, it says, is to better protect workers who are on zero-hour contracts, “gig economy” workers and agency employees.
The proposals, known as the “Good Work Plan”, are following the Taylor Report which carried out a review of modern working practices.
The main proposals are:
- The right to a written statement of terms and conditions will be extended to workers. At present it just applies to employees. It will be required to be given to the worker on the first day of work. For employees, it has to be given within 2 months.
- After 26 weeks service of working a non-fixed pattern, a right to request a fixed working pattern.
- Closing the loophole called “Swedish derogation” which means that agency staff can be paid less than permanent staff.
- A break of up to four weeks between contracts is not to break continuity of employment. Currently a break of one week can break continuity.
- Employers to be prevented from making deductions from staff tips.
- The penalty for aggravating conduct of an employer to be increased from £5,000 to £20,000. The power to impose an additional penalty is rarely used by the Employment Tribunal however.
- Employers will have to calculate holiday pay based on 52 weeks rather than 12 weeks. This is in order to help people in seasonal roles get the paid time off to which they are entitled.
- Legislation is to be introduced so that the employment status test is the same for both employment and tax purposes.
The Government says it will make the UK the first in the world to embrace the challenges and opportunities of the modern gig economy. It claims that it is the most extensive reform of employment law for 20 years. However, the proposed reforms are relatively modest. There are almost one million workers who are currently on zero-hours contracts and the reforms would not ban them. There is no proposed enforcement right for the limited right to request a fixed working pattern. The Government considers that to legislate further in this area would have a negative impact on the sector which it says gives the flexibility required to numerous workers. The TUC however expresses concern that so many people will remain on precarious contracts with no guarantee of work.
It is hoped that the Government will bring in legislation to help to clarify what exactly is meant by the term “worker” but it is considered that it is still difficult to have a clear definition that is better than has been defined by the courts already.
There is no definite commitment by the Government to bring in new laws in this area at present. The Government says that more detailed proposals will be published later.