Today the UK Government published its ‘Good Work Plan’. This sets out the actions the Government intends to take in response to the four employment-related consultations it launched in February 2018. The consultations sought views on whether and how the Government should implement certain recommendations made by the independent Taylor Review back in July 2017, namely those relating to employment status, increasing transparency for workers, agency workers and employment rights enforcement.
There has been some fanfare in the Press about the Good Work Plan. While the changes it sets out are not insignificant, it is worth noting that it does not contain clear proposals on the most controversial recommendations made by the Taylor Review:
- There is currently no proposal for legislative change to the tests for employment status. The Good Work Plan states that legislation will be forthcoming to ‘improve clarity on employment status’ but there is no timetable set for this and, in fact, the Good Work Plan states that the government has commissioned research to assist it in finding out more about those with uncertain employment status before it brings forward legislation. So it may still be some time before we see change in this area.
- The Government states that it will put forward detailed proposals on how the differences between the employment status tests for tax and employment rights purposes could be aligned, which the Government says is the ‘right ambition’. There is no timetable set for doing so.
- The Good Work Plan states that the Government will not introduce a new concept of ‘dependent contractor’. This term had been proposed by Matthew Taylor as a term applicable to workers who were not employees.
So, for now, the Good Work Plan is limited to the less controversial topics. The changes have, unsurprisingly, been broadly welcomed by the CBI.
Key proposals in the Good Work Plan include:
- All workers will have the right to a ‘day one’ written statement of rights, which will be similar to, but more detailed than, the current ‘section 1’ statement which must be given to employees within two months of their start date.
- A right for workers to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service. The Good Work Plan does not state that there will be a hurdle employers have to meet to refuse such a request - it is therefore unclear how beneficial this right will be to workers.
- Businesses will have to provide agency workers with a ‘Key facts page’ setting out the type of contract they are engaged under, how much they will be paid and how, and an estimate of take home pay.
- Agency workers – the ‘Swedish derogation’ will be repealed – this currently permits agency workers to be paid less than their permanent counterparts if they receive a certain level of pay between assignments.
- Statutory continuity of employment – the permitted period of interruption in service without breaking continuity will be extended to four weeks (currently one week can break continuity). This should allow more individuals to benefit from employment rights which are service based, such as unfair dismissal or redundancy rights.
- The holiday pay reference period applicable to workers without normal working hours will be extended from 12 to 52 weeks – the aim here is to ensure that those in seasonal or atypical roles receive the paid time off they are entitled to.
- The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 give employees in businesses with 50 or more employees the right to request that their employer sets up arrangements to inform and consult them about issues in the organisation. Currently a request can only be made if 10% of employees support the request. This threshold will be reduced to 2% of employees. This could have a significant impact on the number of information and consultation arrangements which are put in place.
- The maximum aggravated breach penalty an Employment Tribunal can impose where an employer has repeatedly breached their obligations will be increased from £5,000 to £20,000 and there will be an obligation on employment judges to consider the use of this sanction.