Government's Good Work plan delivers new rights for gig workers

The government has responded to the Taylor Review into modern working practices by proposing to extend sick and holiday pay entitlements to flexible workers.

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Millions of flexible workers could receive new rights under major government reforms designed to address the challenges of the changing world of work in the modern economy. Building on the key findings from the independent Taylor Review investigating the impact of modern working practices on work and gig workers, the new reforms outlined in the Good Work plan include:
  • enforcing workers’ holiday and sick pay for the first time
  • a list of day-one rights including holiday and sick pay entitlements and a new right to a payslip for all workers, including casual and zero-hour workers
  • a right for all workers, not just zero-hour and agency, to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts.

Good Work and the Industrial Strategy

A key finding from the Taylor Review was the strength of the UK’s labour market is built on flexibility, but that a clearer focus is needed on quality of work. The new proposals therefore pledge to enshrine a focus on the quality of work alongside the quantity of employment opportunities as a key plank of the Industrial Strategy.Announcing the Good Work plan, Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: “We recognise the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes, enhancing the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business.“We are proud to have record levels of employment in this country, but we must also ensure that workers’ rights are always upheld.“Our response to this report will mean tangible progress towards that goal as we build an economy that works for everyone."
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Productivity and modern working practices

Business Secretary, Greg Clark, underscored the importance of good work to enhancing the UK’s lagging productivity, saying he believed the proposed reforms would put the UK at the forefront of responding to the challenges of fast-evolving working practices:“The Taylor Review said that the current approach to employment is successful but that we should build on that success, in preparing for future opportunities.“We want to embrace new ways of working, and to do so we will be one of the first countries to prepare our employment rules to reflect the new challenges.“The ‘Good Work plan’ puts the UK at the front of the pack in addressing the challenges and opportunities of modern ways of working, it is an important part of the Industrial Strategy and will enhance our business environment as one of the best places to work, invest and do business.”

Key areas of focus in the Good Work plans

In what could impact the global mobility, taxation and employment law environments, the government is also launching detailed consultations to examine the options set out.This could include new legislation to make it easier for both the workforce and businesses to understand whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed, and determining which rights and tax obligations apply to them.Areas highlighted for reform fall under three aims: to protect workers’ rights, ensure fair pay and to increase transparency in the business environment.The government will seek to protect workers’ rights by:
  • take further action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker
  • introducing a new naming scheme for employers who fail to pay employment tribunal awards
  • quadrupling employment tribunal fines for employers showing malice, spite or gross oversight to £20,000 and considering increasing penalties for employers who have previously lost similar cases.
The government will ensure workers are paid fairly by:
  • providing all 1.2 million agency workers with a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages
  • asking the Low Pay Commission to consider the impact of higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero-hour contracts
  • considering repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates.
The government will increase transparency in the business environment by:
  • defining "working time" for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or online so they know when they should be being paid
  • launching a task force with business to promote awareness and take-up of the right to request flexible working introduced in 2014
  • making sure new and expectant mothers know their workplace rights and raise awareness amongst employers of their obligations
  • launching a new campaign to encourage more working parents to share childcare through shared parental leave – a right introduced in 2015.

Flexibility remains a priority for business

Employer and business representatives have responded positively to the plans. Restating the need for continued flexibility, Neil Carberry, CBI managing director for people and infrastructure, said:“Matthew Taylor’s review rightly recognised that flexibility is vital to the UK’s successful labour market, which is a mainstay of our economy.“Business agrees with the government that flexibility and fairness must go hand-in-hand. Firms will be keen to play their part in promoting greater awareness of employee rights, such as shared parental leave and flexible working, which will improve diversity and, therefore, productivity.“Similarly, responsible businesses back strong enforcement against the small number of firms whose poor practices tarnish the reputation of the vast majority that are a force for good.“It’s essential that changes to UK employment law promote entrepreneurship and maintain the flexibility that has created so many jobs.”

Plans welcomed to root out poor employment practices

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD also welcomed the government’s commitment to the spirit of the Taylor Review, its emphasis on enforcing existing rights and tackling rogue employers.“The CIPD has long called for both workers and employees to be eligible for written terms and conditions of employment, so we fully support the adoption of the right to receive a payslip and terms and conditions from day one."Improving clarity and transparency of people’s contractual terms and conditions from day one can help to ensure that people’s rights are respected in the workplace and reduce abuses.“The government response also rightly places more attention on the enforcement of existing rights which can help ensure that bad practice will be stamped out wherever it exists. “We particularly welcome the clear commitment to enshrining the principles of 'good work' and ensuring that they are measured on an ongoing basis. Work can and should be a force for good, and the measures announced today, alongside the ongoing consultation with business, will help to ensure that these principles are reflected across the economy.”
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Read more about the future of the UK business in the Winter issue of our magazine
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