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The “Good Work Plan” heralds a new round of employment law reform for employers

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A new round of employment law reform is upon us. In an attempt to improve the rights of zero hour, agency and Gig Economy workers (previously identified by Theresa May as “just about managing”), the Government is set to implement its “Good Work Plan” by proposing legislative changes “to ensure that workers can access fair and decent work, that both employers and workers have the clarity they need to understand their employment relationships, and that the enforcement system is fair and fit for purpose”.

The Good Work Plan implements the findings of the Taylor Review and seeks to enhance the rights of workers identified as being vulnerable and lacking adequate job security. The Government’s purpose is to tackle “one-sided flexibility, where some businesses have transferred too much business risk to the individual, sometimes at the detriment of their financial security and personal wellbeing”. The Government is adopting nearly all of the recommendations made in the Taylor Report. These are some of the highlights:

  • extend the time required to break a period of continuous service from one week to four weeks;
  • give all workers a right to request a more stable contract – i.e. a more fixed working pattern – after 26 weeks on a non-fixed pattern;
  • extend to workers the right to be given a written statement of rights on the first day of work (rather than within two months) and to extend the information required for workers and employees (eg, to cover eligibility for sick leave and pay and details of other types of paid leave);
  • oblige companies to provide specific information to agency workers, to include: the type of contract the worker is employed under, the minimum rate of pay to expect, how they are to be paid, if they are paid by an intermediary company, any deductions or fees that will be taken, and an estimate or example of what this means for their take-home pay;
  • increase the maximum level of penalty that the Employment Tribunal can impose in instances of aggravating conduct by employers from £5,000 to £20,000;
  • legislate to oblige Employment Tribunals to consider the use of sanctions where employers have lost a previous case on broadly comparable facts;
  • extend state enforcement, on behalf of vulnerable workers, to underpayment of holiday pay.

Trade Unions are concerned that the plans do not go far enough to address the concerns of Gig Economy workers and also fail to tackle what they see as the scourge of zero hours contracts. However, once (and if) fully implemented through legislation which the Government proposes introducing next year, the Good Work Plan heralds a significant increase to the rights of atypical workers in the Gig Economy.