The Good Work Plan – An Update
The Good Work Plan – An Update
Back in 2016, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) commissioned an independent review of modern working practices by Matthew Taylor.
The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices was published the following year in July 2017 and set out a list of over 50 recommendations which were aimed at improving the working life and employment rights of agency, casual, zero hour and low paid workers.
In response to the Taylor review, the government has now published the Good Work Plan, which sets out workplace reforms focusing on “fair and decent work”, “clarity for employers and workers” and “fairer enforcement”.
The Good Work Plan Proposals
The Good Work Plan includes a number of commitments for legislative changes, which includes:
- A right for workers to request a more stable and predictable contract
- An increase in the period required to break continuity of service from one week to four weeks
- A commitment to improve the clarify of the employment status test
- Repeal of the “Swedish derogation” which currently excludes agency workers from the right to equal pay with comparable employees if they have an employment contract which guarantees pay between assignments
- An amendment to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to extend the right to a written statement of terms to workers and expand the information which must be included in these
- Plans to improve enforcement including a process for publishing the names of employers who fail to pay tribunal awards
- Increased financial penalties for employers who have committed an “aggravated breach” of employment rights (with the maximum penalty to be increased from £5,000 to £20,000).
Clarification on Employment Status
A key expectation of the Good Work Plan was that it was going to address the contentious issue of employment status. The distinction between being an ‘employee’, a ‘worker’ or ‘self-employed’ has been shown to be unclear in many cases involving gig economy companies like Uber, Deliveroo, and Pimlico Plumbers amongst others.
The Taylor Review recommended that the government clarify the law on employment status by setting out key principles in primary legislation. The recommendation was that there was to be a presumption of employment. It was also recommended that where there is a dispute about the individual’s status, the employer, not the employee, should bear the burden of proving that the individual is not entitled to employment rights.
In the Good Work Plan the government has committed to introducing legislation in order to clarify the law because “businesses should not be able to avoid their responsibilities by trying to misclassify or mislead their staff”.
There are however no concrete proposals for the proposed legislative changes. Instead, the government has commissioned further research “to find out more about those with uncertain employment status”. This appears to be kicking the issue into the long-grass, with no resolution in sight in the near future.
Whilst many of the proposals contained in the Taylor Review will be implemented by the government, a number of recommendations have been overlooked. These include:
- A protected right to return to work following a lengthy period of sickness absence in the same way that maternity leave is protected.
- The right for agency workers to request a permanent contract with the hirer where they have worked there for a year or more.
- A higher rate of National Minimum Wage where workers are required to work hours that are not guaranteed.
- A standalone right to compensation where an employer does not provide a written statement of terms and conditions.
Draft legislation looks set to implement some of the above proposals throughout this year. However, it is likely to be 2020 at the earliest before the majority of changes will take effect.