The Good Work Plan

Sorry to mention the ‘B’ word but there have been a number of important announcements which have been totally overshadowed by Brexit recently. The Good Work Plan is a great example of this and with major changes to workplace laws being proposed, there are huge implications for employers and employees alike.

In December 2018, the Government published its long-awaited response to the Taylor Review. The Good Work Plan proposes reforms to labour laws which would protect workers who are not engaged in a traditional employment relationship.

The Taylor Review was written in response to the UK Government’s 2016 “Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy” and provided a number of recommendations for improving working practices in the UK. The Government does appear to have accepted several of Matthew Taylor’s recommendations and if they are implemented, they will certainly improve workers’ rights in this country.

As an employer, you should be aware of these changes and review your current workplace practices so that you can implement the new laws as and when they are introduced.

Key reforms include:
WRITTEN STATEMENT – From 6 April 2020
Employees will have the right to a written statement of terms from day one of employment, rather than within the first two months (as currently). The right to a written statement of terms is extended to workers as well as employees.

This is the measure that will have most impact for businesses and it will be a requirement that from 6 April 2020 to issue a statement of terms or a contract from day one to both employees and workers. One practical way round this may be to ensure that your offer letters cover all the required elements and that they are sent to all new starts.

The reference period for calculating a week’s pay (for holiday pay) is extended from 12 weeks to 52 weeks. Relevant to where the pay is variable, such as regular overtime.

SWEDISH DEROGATION – From 6 April 2020
The Swedish Derogation, which gives employers the ability to pay agency workers less than their own workers in certain circumstance, is abolished.

SANCTIONS REGIME – From 6 April 2019
The rarely imposed penalty for employer’s aggravating conduct will be increased from £5,000 to £20,000.

In addition, the Government published a consultation paper on extending the right of employees on maternity leave who are selected for redundancy. The current rule is that they must be given priority over other redundant employees for suitable alternative employment.

The Government is considering extending this right to:
• Women who have returned from maternity leave in the previous six months, not just those who are currently on maternity leave.
• Women who have told their employer they are pregnant.
• Employees on adoption leave, shared parental leave and longer periods of parental leave.

The Good Work Plan proposes new legislation to ‘improve the clarity of the employment status tests’ that are applied to determine who has employment or worker rights, and to align the employment and tax status tests.

Extending the period (from 1 to 4 weeks) of any break in service that is allowed when calculating an employee’s qualifying period for continuous service. This break in service is relevant when calculating whether an employee has accrued sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal and redundancy pay and would benefit casual employees who work intermittently for the same employer.

The right for all workers (including agency workers and workers on zero hours contracts) to have a contract guaranteeing minimum hours of work after 26 weeks’ service.

A new ‘name and shame’ scheme for employers that do not pay employment tribunal awards within a reasonable time.

As you will see, the proposed measures are extensive and far reaching and they will indeed have huge implications for employers and employees. However, the Good Work Plan does demonstrate the Government’s commitment to the Taylor Review and provides some clarity for employees and employers about how the legal landscape for workers’ rights might look post Brexit.