Are we any closer to good work for all? Following the Taylor Review of modern working practices, which was published in July 2017, the government published its own Good Work Plan at the end of 2018.
Of the changes which are now known to be coming into force on specified dates, the most significant is the removal of pay between assignments contracts (also called the Swedish derogation), under which agencies could avoid paying workers the same rates of pay as comparable permanent workers.
Evidence gathered as part of the government's consultation showed the contracts were being used to reduce the cost of agency staff where there were rarely the gaps between assignments the contracts were intended to cover, and one employment agency commented it had "yet to see an example of a worker actually being paid between assignments".
While the biggest issues identified by the Taylor Review and in the Good Work Plan remain unaddressed (in particular, the promised clarity of tests for employment status), these changes do provide some transparency for workers to understand what they are being paid and what their terms of work are. Individuals should know the bargain that they have made and be able use that information to assess its fairness.
6 April 2019: itemised payslips
A previous change recommended by the Taylor Review of modern working practices in July 2017. All workers now have the right to an itemised pay statement, and can go to an employment tribunal to enforce that right.
Where a worker is paid on an hourly rate basis, the itemised payslip must show the number of hours paid for with different figures provided where a worker is paid a different rate of pay for different types of work.
This reflects the government's commitment in its response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices that employers provide itemised payslips to all workers, not just employees. The right does not apply to wages or salary paid in respect of a period of work before this date.
6 April 2019: financial penalties for employers
Employment tribunals can now order aggravated breach penalties against employers of up to £20,000 (previously only £5,000) where the breach takes place on or after 6 April. New guidance has been promised which will give examples of how the orders can be used, but this has not yet been issued.
Unlike other changes announced, this is not intended to improve clarity (indeed, without the promised guidance it is unclear how and if this power will be used), but a recognition that without enforcement, the law is worthless.
6 April 2020: workers entitled to a statement of particulars
Currently, only employees are entitled to a statement of particulars of their employment. Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act sets out what information must be included and given to the employee within the first two months of their employment.
Under the new regulations, workers (not just employees) will receive a statement of particulars from the first day of their contract where the work begins on or after 6 April 2020. There will some flexibility for employers who decide to provide particulars in instalments, as long as most are provided in a single document on day one and the remainder within two months.
The list of particulars which must be given to employees will be extended to workers and will also include:
- not just normal working hours, but the days of the week the worker is required to work, whether or not such hours or days may be variable and if so, how they will vary
- not just terms and conditions relating to sickness absence including any sick pay, but any other paid leave, and any other benefits provided by the employer
- any probationary period, including any conditions and its duration
- any training which the employer requires the worker to complete, and who will pay for it.
For existing employees, whose employment began on or after 30 November 1993 but before 6 April 2020, the existing law continues to apply unless the employee requests a new statement.
6 April 2020: lowering the threshold to request information and consultation arrangements
The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (which apply to all businesses with 50 or more employees) provide a framework, if 10% or more of the workforce request it, for collective information and consultation arrangements and provide a mechanism for views to be taken into account when major workforce changes occur (such as restructuring).
The Taylor Review's recommendation that the threshold be lowered to 2% has been accepted and will apply from 6 April 2020. However, since the existing minimum of 15 employees has been retained, the lower percentage will only apply where an employer has at least 750 employees.
An employer with 500 employees, for example, would need 3% of its workforce to agree to reach 15, and an employer with 200 employees would need 8% of its employees to agree.
6 April 2020: the removal of the 'Swedish derogation' agency worker loophole
Swedish derogation (ie pay between assignments contracts) from the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 will be abolished from 6 April 2020, guaranteeing equal wages with comparable permanent workers to agency workers who have worked for that business for 12 weeks or more.
By no later than 30 April 2020, temporary work agencies must provide agency workers who currently have a Swedish derogation provision with a written statement that the provision no longer applies from 6 April 2020.
All employment businesses will have to provide agency workers from 6 April 2020 with a key information document before agreeing the terms by which the individual will undertake work.
The key information document must include information such as the type of contract, minimum rate of pay, deductions to be made from pay, how and by whom they will be paid, and their entitlement to annual leave.