Although flexibility is good for the labour market, there has been a widespread concern that modern working practices transfer risk from businesses to individuals, eroding workplace rights. This concern led the government to commission the Taylor Review to consider what legislative and other changes are needed to ensure that individuals have access to "fair and decent" work. After a round of consultation exercises, the government has now confirmed the changes that it is planning to make to employment law in response to the Taylor Review.
In relation to the need for everyone to have access to fair and decent work the government will:
- Give workers on variable contracts the right to ask for a more predictable and stable contract, for example in relation to days or hours of work, after 26 weeks' service;
- Allow continuity of employment to be preserved during breaks in employment of up to four weeks;
- Repeal the "Swedish derogation" that allows agency workers to opt out of equal pay under the Agency Workers Regulations, given evidence of widespread abuse; and
- Reduce the threshold for a request to set up an information and consultation body from 10% of the workforce to 2%, subject to a minimum threshold of 15 employees.
Another key area of concern relates to the clarity and transparency of employment relationships and the legislative framework surrounding them. In that respect the government will:
- Improve the clarity of the current employment status framework, as well as bringing forward proposals for how the employment law and tax framework for determining employment status can be aligned;
- With effect from 6 April 2020, apply the right to a written statement of terms and conditions to workers as well as to employees, make it a "day one" right and extend the information that has to be provided – for example by including details of other types of paid leave offered by the employer such as maternity or paternity leave;
- Give agency workers the right to "key facts" about the terms of their engagement, including details of minimum rates of pay and any deductions or fees applied; and
- Extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks.
Finally, in relation to enforcement, the government will increase the maximum penalty that can be applied where an employer is found to have breached its obligations in a way that has "aggravating features" to £20,000. It will take further action to facilitate the use of sanctions where there are repeated breaches by the same employer and require judges to consider using sanctions where appropriate. The government is also intending to introduce a new state enforcement system for holiday pay to ensure vulnerable workers receive the pay to which they are entitled and has introduced a "naming and shaming" scheme for employers that fail to pay employment tribunal awards.