The government has confirmed its intention to increase employment rights for millions of workers in its ‘Good Work Plan’ (“the Plan”). The Plan has been developed as a response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, published in July 2017 and it aims to address the rights of those with atypical worker statuses, such as agency workers and those on zero-hours contracts.
The proposed reforms will see the repeal of legislation allowing agency workers to be paid less than permanent staff, an increase in the period required to break continuity of employment for the purpose of accruing employment rights from one week to four weeks and all workers having the right to a written statement of their rights from day one, setting out, amongst other things, sick pay and maternity entitlement.
The Plan also details measures to tighten up on the enforcement of worker rights. Fines against employers that have exhibited malice, spite or gross oversight in breaching employment rights could be up to £20,000 (this is quadruple the current maximum) and new powers will be created to impose penalties on employers breaching employment agency legislation such as non-payment of wages. More resources are set to be allocated to the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and plans for a single enforcement body to help protect vulnerable workers have been brought forward to early 2019.
The government has also set out its intention to introduce legislation clarifying the test for employment status, which is the basis for determining eligibility for various worker rights. This looks likely to follow the Taylor Review’s suggestion that the differences between employment status tests should be reduced to an absolute minimum.
These changes have the potential to go some way to bringing employment law in line with modern working practices. However, there is currently no timetable for most of these reforms so it is likely to be some time before we are able to assess their impact.