The Government has set out numerous planned changes to employment law in its recently published Good Work Plan. The Plan is split into 3 parts so, in the first of a series of three articles, we look at some of the plans relating to “Fair and Decent Work”.
The right to request a more predictable and stable contract
A new right will be introduced to allow employees to request a “more predictable and stable contract”. The idea is that after 26 weeks of service, an employee can request that their employer places them on a more fixed working pattern. Examples of what might be requested include certainty around the minimum number of hours the individual will be asked to work and certainty as to the days on which they will be asked to work. This new legal right will predominantly benefit individuals employed as casuals or on zero-hour contracts. An employer would have 3 months in which to make their decision.
Break in Continuous Service
Currently, a gap of just 1 week can break an individual’s continuity of service. Therefore, despite regularly working on and off for the same employer over a significant period of time, an individual may not obtain some employment rights (such as the right not to be unfairly dismissed or the right to statutory maternity pay). Legislation will be introduced to extend the gap to 4 weeks. Again, this new legal right will be particularly beneficial for those employees who work on a sporadic or casual basis.
Protecting Agency Workers
There are rules entitling an agency worker to receive equal pay to permanent workers after 12 weeks of service. However, currently some agency workers exchange this right in return for receiving a guaranteed level of pay between their temporary assignments. This is often referred to as “the Swedish derogation” (because it was a concept that the Swedish Government negotiated for inclusion in the overarching European legislation). However, it has been recognised that often agency workers are financially worse off taking the Swedish derogation route so legislation will be passed to ban the use of the Swedish derogation type of contract. This change is expected to come into force in April 2020.
Quality of Work
There are record numbers of people in employment in the UK so there is now to be an increased emphasis on job quality. The key principles to measure job quality are listed as being:
- Satisfaction - The idea is that if an employer provides a better quality job with increased job satisfaction, it will mean that they attract and retain top talent, meaning the business will grow and thrive.
- Fair pay – Rules will be implemented to ensure that tips are passed directly to the individual, rather than taken by the employer.
- Participation and progression – There will be educational reforms to allow for a wider range of training options, including a National Retraining Scheme so that individuals have the support to retrain, for example, where their current occupation is threatened by automation and new technological advances.
- Wellbeing, safety and security – The importance of supporting mental health in the workplace is recognised as happy and engaged employees are generally more productive.
- Voice and autonomy - There are plans to reduce the threshold required for triggering an information and consultation arrangement in the workplace. Such arrangements essentially give employees an entitlement to be involved with workplace discussions about a list of agreed topics, which often include the business's economic situation, employment prospects and decisions likely to lead to substantial changes (like restructuring proposals or redundancy plans). Currently at least 10% of the workforce need to support the request but this will be lowered to 2% (although the 15 employee minimum threshold will still remain). The change is expected to come into force in April 2020.
Fair and decent work At the heart of Matthew Taylor’s recommendations was an overarching ambition that all work should be fair and decent and for employers to offer opportunities that give individuals realistic scope to develop and progress. We fully share this ambition and set out in the Industrial Strategy the important role quality work can play in boosting UK productivity. We will take firm action to tackle what Matthew Taylor termed one-sided flexibility, where some businesses have transferred too much business risk to the individual, sometimes at the detriment of their financial security and personal well-being.