The Government has published a series of proposed changes to employment law, following the Matthew Taylor Good Work Review.
The government claims it is the biggest reform of employment law in 20 years. As one Twitter commentator has pointed out, 'Modest changes to employment law' isn't as good a headline, although it's probably more accurate. There is no draft legislation attached, nor (with minor exceptions) any dates or commitments to legislate. It's just a list of proposals.
The key proposals are:
• changing the rules on continuity of employment, so that a break of up to four weeks (currently one week) between contracts will not interrupt continuity
• extending the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to workers (as well as employees), and requiring the employer to give it on the first day of work (rather than within two months)
• legislation to streamline the employment status tests so they are the same for employment and tax purposes, and to avoid employers misclassifying employees/workers as self-employed.
• a ban on employers making deductions from staff tips (presumably just by extending the existing unlawful deduction laws to cover tips, although the paper does not say this)
• increasing the (hardly ever imposed) penalty for employer's aggravating conduct from £5,000 to £20,000
• abolishing the Swedish Derogation, which gives employers the ability to pay agency workers less than their own workers in certain circumstances
Many were hoping for legislation to tackle abuse of zero hour contracts. That is there (kind of), but in very limited terms. The government is proposing a right to request a fixed working pattern for those who do not have one, after 26 weeks' on a non-fixed pattern. Presumably this right will be similar to the right to request flexible working, ie a series of procedural requirements an employer must follow but - broadly - considerable discretion for the employer to refuse, with very limited financial penalties if breached. However, the Good Work Plan gives no details of what enforcement mechanism is proposed.
Legislation to clarify employment status is, of course, welcome, but the difficulty is establishing clear definitions which are better than those we currently have. Nobody knows how to do that, and the government has simply said that detailed proposals will be published in due course.
I think one of the most important points is that at present there is no timetable to bring these recommendations into law and given Brexit etc it is unclear when or if they will be legally binding
However most prudent employers should factor in these proposals when dealing with their staff now.
The full 62 page report can be found by googling good work plan it is only 62 pages long and may provide relief from any excesses over the holiday period.