‘Good Work Plan’ finally published
On Monday the Government published its proposals to improve protection for agency workers, zero hours workers and others with typical working arrangements, the “Good Work Plan”.
Whilst draft statutory instruments have now been laid before Parliament, there is no firm timetable for reforms though a number are provisionally expected to come into force on 6th April 2020 The Good Work Plan is the Government’s latest response to the recommendations from the Taylor Review, published in July 2017. The key proposals are:-
- Legislation to streamline the employment status tests with the intention that they become the same for both employment and tax purposes; and to avoid the misclassification of employees/workers as self-employed;
- Increasing the penalty for employers aggravating conduct from £5,000.00 to £20,000 (although this has hardly ever been imposed);
- Changing the rules on continuity of employment, so that a break of up to four weeks (currently one week) between contracts will not interrupt continuity;
- Bringing forward proposals in early 2019 for a single enforcement body to ensure vulnerable workers are better protected;
- The creation of new powers to impose penalties on employers who breach employment agency legislation like non-payment of wages;
- Bringing forward legislation to enforce holiday pay for vulnerable workers;
- A ban on employers making deductions from staff tips. Whilst there is no detail as to how this will work in practice, it is thought there will just be an extension of the existing unlawful deduction from wages’ laws;
- Extending the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to workers (as well as employees) and requiring the employer to provide it on the first day of work (rather than within two months);
- Abolishing the “Swedish derogation” which gives employers the ability to pay agency workers less than their own workers in certain circumstances.
The much hoped for legislation to tackle abuse of zero hours contracts does not seem to have materialised. The Government is proposing a right to request a fixed working pattern for those who do not have one, after twenty six weeks on a non-fixed pattern. Although this lacks details presumably this right will be similar to the right to request flexible working i.e. a series of procedural requirements for an employer to follow but with consideration discretion to refuse, with very limited financial penalties if breached. However the Good Work Plan gives no detail of the enforcement proposals.
Whilst employers and employees alike have been awaiting legislation to clarify employment status, in light of the “gig economy” cases, there is still a considerable amount of detail to be set out so employers may feel we are no further forward. Employers would still be advised to consider auditing their use of atypical workers to evaluate risk areas.