15 January 2019

Employment law reforms: Government has released its “Good Work Plan”

As a welcomed distraction from Brexit, the Government has now published its much anticipated response to the recommendations made in the 2017 “Good Work Review” by Matthew Taylor.

Background

Matthew Taylor was commissioned by the Government to lead the review into how employment practices must change in order to keep pace with modern business models. The Taylor review was one of the most important and long awaited investigations into the UK employment market in recent years. Most notably, the review called on the Government to clarify the legislation on the issue of employment status and made various recommendations to help achieve this. However, it also covered wider issues such as proper taxation and pension provision for individuals who work flexibly.

The “Good Work Plan” responds to these recommendations.

The proposed reforms

In its “Good Work Plan”, the Government presents its vision for the future of the UK labour market and has committed to a wide range of policy and 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 key proposals are as follows, to:

• extend the time required to break a period of continuous service from one week (as is the law at present) to up to four weeks to make it easier for employees to access their rights;

• extend the right to a written statement of particulars of employment to all workers, as well as employees;

• require employers to make access to a written statement a day one right for both employees and workers (rather than within two months as is the law at present);

• extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks for workers who have variable hours;

• legislate to improve the clarity of the employment status tests, reflecting the reality of modern working relationships and to ensure that the tests are the same for employment and tax purposes;

• ban employers from making deductions from staff tips;

• repeal the Swedish derogation (which gives employers the ability to pay agency workers less than their own workers in certain circumstances) and ban the use of this type of contract to withhold agency workers’ equal pay rights; and

• increase the maximum level of penalty that Employment Tribunals can impose in instances of aggravated conduct to £20,000 (from £5,000).

The detail for much of this is yet to be decided. However, there is draft legislation in place which confirms the dates on which some (although not all) of the measures will come into force. The earliest real change will be seen in April 2020.

What about zero hours workers?

The Government has not committed to introducing legislation which seeks to protect zero hours workers but it has suggested introducing a right to request a fixed working pattern for individuals who have worked at least 26 weeks’ on a non-fixed pattern.

It is envisaged that this right will be similar to the right to make a request to work flexibly, in that there will be a set procedure to follow and the request can only be refused for a defined business reason as set out in legislation.

A copy of the full “Good Work Plan” can be located here.

Impact on Schools

There are no major surprises in this document and the vast majority of Matthew Taylor’s recommendations have been accepted.

Schools should familiarise themselves with the proposals and consider the impact they will have on their practices, policies and procedures, once implemented.

The main change for most schools will be the requirement to give employees and workers a statement of their conditions of employment from day 1. This has always been best practice so the additional requirement should not be too burdensome.

Of more significance will be any future legislation introduced to provide greater clarity on the tests relevant to determining employment status. This is not currently part of the draft legislation but the government is proposing to harmonise the tests used for employment law and tax purposes and to simplify the current approach. This would be welcomed given the current uncertainty in this area.

We will keep you updated as matters progress.

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About the Author
Hannah Wilding, Solicitor
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