The Government has set out a number of proposals for employment law reform in a “Good Work Plan” (the “Plan”) which is its latest response to the Taylor Review into Good Work which took place in 2017.
We have been awaiting news of the Government’s intentions since various consultations were published following the recommendations of the Taylor Review.
The Plan does not contain any major surprises and the changes put forward are relatively modest. With some minor exceptions (detailed below), there are no set dates for the reforms. However, the Plan will be of interest to employers – particularly those engaging atypical workers or workers with variable hours.
The Plan was published on 17 December 2018.
There is no timetable set down for the majority of the reforms.
Regulations covering a few of the smaller changes will come into force on 6 April 2020 (see further below).
The key proposals put forward in the Plan include:
- New legislation to introduce a right for all workers to request a more “predictable and stable” contract. Employees who would like “more certainty” will be able to request a “more fixed working pattern” after 26 weeks. This might involve greater certainty around hours or days worked.
- The gap in employment required to break continuous service, which is currently one week, will be extended to four weeks. This will allow more employees access to employment rights.
- The “Swedish derogation” will be banned. Currently, this exempts agency workers from the right to receive equal pay after 12 weeks if they are employees of an agency and also receive payments from the agency between assignments. Regulations confirming the ban will come into force on 6 April 2020.
- Improving clarity around the tests for employment status. The Government says it will bring forward detailed proposals on how the employment status framework in both the employment system and the tax system can be aligned. It agrees that current legislation on employment status is not fit for purpose and has commissioned independent research to determine the best way to legislate on this.
- The right to receive a written statement will be a day one right for both employees and workers. Currently, the written statement does not need to be given until two months after employment starts and only needs to be provided to employees. Regulations confirming these changes will come into force on 6 April 2020. The information required to be given will also be expanded (although no implementation date has yet been set for this).
- Legislation will extend the holiday reference period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks. Regulations allowing this will come into force on 6 April 2020.
- Changes allowing fairer enforcement will come into force. The Government states that it will publish the names of employers that are not paying Employment Tribunal awards; legislation will raise the maximum limit of an aggravated breach penalty (which are uncommon) from £5,000 to £20,000; and legislation will facilitate the use of sanctions in cases of repeated breaches by the same employer.
- A new, single labour market enforcement agency will be introduced to ensure vulnerable workers have better access to and awareness of their rights.
There is no immediate action for employers to take and we will keep you updated with any changes.
Further clarity around the tests for employment status is much needed and is very welcome – it will be key for those employers who engage a large number of workers and/or contractors. We await with interest the Government’s detailed proposals on this.