On December 17, 2018, the U.K. government published the long-awaited “Good Work Plan,” which proposes reforms to labour laws to protect workers who are not engaged in a traditional employment relationship.
The name draws on the July 2017 report “Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices” (the Taylor Review), which was published by former political strategist Matthew Taylor. The Taylor Review was written in response to the U.K. government’s 2016 “Independent Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy” and provided a number of recommendations for improving working practices in the U.K.
The “Good Work Plan” also takes into account feedback from the consultation launched by the secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, who had sought views on how to implement the Taylor Review’s recommendations.
Proposals for reform include:
- The repeal of the “Swedish derogation,” in order to guarantee pay for all long-term agency workers that is equal or comparable to that of permanent workers. The Swedish derogation currently excludes agency workers with guaranteed minimum pay between assignments from the right to be paid the same as permanent staff.
- The right for all workers (including agency workers and workers on zero hours contracts) to have a contract guaranteeing minimum hours of work after 26 weeks’ service.
- Extending the “day one” right to a written statement of employment particulars to all workers, not just employees. The current requirement for the employer to provide a written statement of certain employment terms will also be expanded to include the length of notice an employer or worker is required to give to terminate the relationship and details of all remuneration (not just basic pay).
- Extending the period (from one to four weeks) of any break in service that is allowed when calculating an employee’s qualifying period for continuous service. This break in service is relevant when calculating whether an employee has accrued sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal and redundancy pay, and would benefit casual employees who work intermittently for the same employer.
- Reducing the threshold for establishing a permanent employee forum (also known as a works council). The U.K. has less stringent information and consultation obligations than most other European countries, but it is possible for employees to require their employer to enter into discussions about establishing a permanent employee forum or works council if the greater of 10 percent of the workforce or 15 employees make a request. The proposal would reduce the threshold to 2 percent of the workforce but maintain the 15-employee minimum.
- A new “name and shame” scheme for employers that do not pay employment tribunal awards within a reasonable time.
The Good Work Plan proposes new legislation to “improve the clarity of the employment status tests” that are applied to determine who has employment or worker rights, and to align the employment and tax status tests. Though this aspect is not meaningfully addressed in the “Good Work Plan,” many commentators believe that the relevant test for employment rights purposes is adequately covered by evolving case law.