The UK Government has now published its full response to the Taylor Review report which was released in July 2017 (available here). The Government vowed to comply with the recommendation to "place equal importance on the quality of work as it does on the quantity". The proposed reforms may affect millions of workers, but some are sceptical that the Government proposals may not go far enough.
In addition to the Report, four consultations have been launched to seek views on:
- employment status - asking for views on the possibility of codification to improve clarity;
- increasing transparency in the labour market – in particular, around contractual arrangements between employers and workers and their respective rights and responsibilities;
- agency workers - how umbrella companies or intermediaries could be brought within the scope of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate; it also seeks to gather evidence on the level of abuse of the ‘Swedish Derogation’; and
- enforcement of employment rights - in particular enforcement of successful tribunal awards, including the proposal of naming and shaming employers who default in paying the tribunal awards.
The government response does not take much further forward some of the major issues of the Taylor Review report.
For example, the question of employment status has been put out for consultation as has the issue of the recommendations in respect of agency workers.
The Pimlico Plumbers case has been heard in in the Supreme Court this February on whether a plumber classified as 'self-employed' in the contract is actually a worker under the statutory provisions, though no judgment is yet available. The Government may (or may not) be hoping this decision resolves part of the problem.
Further changes proposed:
- a new ‘dependent contractor’ test;
- extend the length of break required from 1 week to 1 month in order to break continuous service and consult on changes to clarify the situations where cessation of work could be justified;
- a new definition of ‘working time’ for gig economy workers;
- a new right to written particulars of employment for all workers (as compared with only employees currently);
- a new right to a payslip for all workers (as compared with only employees currently);
- new right for all workers, not just zero-hour and agency, to request a more ‘stable/predictable’ contract;
- enforcement by HMRC of the lowest paid workers’ rights to the national minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay;
- ask the Low Pay Commission to consider introducing a higher rate of the national minimum wage for workers on zero hour contracts;
- increase to £20,000 possible employment tribunal fines for employers showing ‘malice, spite or gross oversight’;
- a review of the legislation relating to protection against redundancy for pregnant workers and those on maternity leave.
The Government has rejected the proposal to reverse the burden of proof in employment status cases, at least for now, citing all of the other measures, such as the new online tool. The Government accepted the suggestion of an online tool which could help determine questions of employment status. It is proposed to be similar to the HMRC's Employment Status Indicator tool used to determine employment status for tax purposes. However, it notes that this is a complicated area and the tool will need to follow final decisions on the legislative framework. It will be interesting to see the development of this online tool and any impact it may have on Employment Tribunal assessment.
Does the Good Work Plan go far enough?
Overall, the Good Work Plan calls for further consultation and has also proposed to review certain employment legislation. Extending the potential 'break' period while preserving continuous service and the review into redundancies for pregnant employees, depending on its outcome, may have some discernible impact. On the key questions around employment status / rights and the gig economy, substantive changes still appear distant.
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If you want to find out how the new proposals will affect you and your employees, please get in touch.