Government announces “Good Work Plan” for enhancing rights and protections at work
The Government has announced that millions of flexible workers, including those working in the gig economy, are to receive enhanced rights and protections at work.
The Government’s “Good Work Plan” contains its proposals for ensuring that workers know their rights, receive the benefits and protections they are entitled to and for taking action against employers who breach workers’ rights. The “Good Work Plan” is the Government’s response to the recommendations made by Matthew Taylor in his “Good Work Report” which investigated what impact modern working practices are having on the world of work and made wide-ranging recommendations.
In response to Matthew Taylor’s recommendation for greater clarity on employment status, the Government has announced it is launching a detailed consultation. This will examine the options for making it easier for both the workforce and businesses to understand whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed so that they know which rights and tax obligations apply to them.
Making sure workers know their rights
All workers, including casuals and zero-hours workers, will be entitled to a statement of their day-one rights, including holiday and sick pay entitlements. They will also be entitled to receive a payslip which, for time-paid workers, must state the hours they are being paid for.
Agency workers will be entitled to a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages.
The Government will also introduce a definition of ‘working time’ for workers in the gig economy so they know when they should be being paid.
It also plans to raise awareness of employers’ obligations towards new and expectant mothers and will launch a task force with business to promote awareness and take-up of the right to request flexible working. It will also launch a new campaign to encourage more working parents to share childcare through Shared Parental Leave. The right to Shared Parental Leave was introduced in 2015 but take up has been low.
The Government is considering higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero-hour contracts and will be asking the Low Pay Commission to consider this. It will also introduce a right for all workers, not just zero-hours and agency workers, to request a “more stable” contract.
It has also confirmed that rules on continuity of employment will be changed to make it easier to establish continuous service and that the reference period for calculating holiday pay will be increased from 12 weeks to 52 weeks (to address seasonal variations which impact on the level of holiday pay).
The Government will consider whether the right to Statutory Sick Pay should be a day one right which does not depend on a worker's earnings. However, it does not appear to support the Taylor Review's recommendation that those on long term sick should have the right to return to the same (or similar) job after sick leave.
Here the Government plans to introduce a new naming and shaming scheme for employers who fail to pay employment tribunal awards and will consider introducing penalties for employers who have previously lost similar cases. It will also quadruple employment tribunal penalties for employers showing “malice, spite or gross oversight” so that a tribunal can award a maximum penalty of £20,000, rather than the current £5,000.
In addition, the Government announced that it will enforce vulnerable workers’ holiday and sick pay by taking enforcement action itself, in the same way as it currently does for National Minimum Wage breaches.
It will also take further action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker, including asking HMRC to focus its national minimum wage enforcement efforts on employers who use unpaid interns.
As well as a consultation on employment status, the Government will be consulting on its recommendations for enforcement of employment rights, its agency workers recommendations and on measures to increase transparency in the UK labour market
The Government’s announcement is light on detail but its plans should become clearer once it publishes the consultation papers, including its plans for clarifying employment status. The Government has said that it has acted on all but one of Matthew Taylor’s 53 recommendations and the only one it is not taking forwards is reducing the difference in National Insurance contributions between employees and the self-employed. Many of the proposals envisage improved guidance and information rather than legislative changes.
Quadrupling of employment tribunal penalties in cases of “malice, spite or gross oversight” is unlikely to have much impact as employment tribunals appear reluctant to impose the penalties in the first place. Figures published just over a year ago indicated that penalties had only been issued in 18 cases and then had only been paid in 12. Employers may, however, be more concerned if the Government does decide to introduce additional penalties if they fight and lose cases which are similar to one they have lost in the past.
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