17 Dec 2018

The Government has today (17 December 2018) published its Good Work Plan. It sets out its vision for the future of the UK labour market, and how it will implement the recommendations made in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices. The report of the Taylor Review was published in July 2017 and the Government accepted most of its recommendations in February of this year, when it launched four public consultations to seek views on how to implement the recommendations. The Government has also responded to the Labour Market Enforcement Strategy 2018 to 2019. Some of the recommendations in this Strategy overlap with the Good Work Plan.

The Good Work Plan introduces changes to employment law that are intended to improve protection for agency workers, zero hours workers and others on atypical working arrangements as seen in the gig economy. Its main proposals include:

General employment rights

  • A new right for all workers to be provided with a statement of rights on day one, setting out details of sick leave and pay, and other types of paid leave
  • An increase in the period required to break continuity of employment from one week to four weeks
  • Legislation to prevent employers making deductions from staff tips
  • An extension of the holiday reference period from 12 to 52 weeks
  • New legislation to enforce holiday pay for vulnerable workers
  • Lowering the threshold for a request to set up information and consultation arrangements from 10% to 2% (retaining the 15 employee minimum).

Agency workers

  • The repeal of the Swedish derogation, which allows employers to pay agency workers less than permanent workers if they have a contract with the agency
  • A new power to impose penalties on employers who breach employment agency legislation
  • Every agency worker to receive a key facts page, with information about pay.

Gig economy

  • Legislation to clarify the employment status tests, aligning the employment and tax tests; and
  • A right to request a more fixed working pattern after 26 weeks on a non-fixed pattern.

Enforcement

  • A new scheme for the public naming of employers who fail to pay employment tribunal awards, which will work in a similar way to the scheme for national minimum wage underpayment;
  • A quadrupling of fines for employers' aggravating conduct to £20,000
  • A single labour market enforcement agency to ensure workers' rights are properly enforced.

Despite running to 64 pages, the Plan is short on detail and merely sets out the Government's intention to legislate in these areas. Few timescales are given and no draft legislation is attached to the report. Instead, the Plan states that detailed proposals will be published in due course. It is a set of piecemeal reforms rather than a vision for the new world of work. In its press release, the Government claims that the Good Work Plan is the "largest upgrade in a generation to workplace rights" and "the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years". After 17 months to consider the Taylor Review report, and four public consultations, the Government's response can best be described as disappointing. It is a missed opportunity to bring employment law up to date and make it relevant to new types of working.

Employers will, however, be relieved that these reforms will not substantially increase their staff costs (except for those who use the Swedish derogation) but they will have to deal with more bureaucracy when the proposals are implemented.