Government announces its ‘Good Work Plan’

By Teni Shahiean, CEO at OTS Solicitors 

In late December 2018, the government published its ‘good work plan’. It did not receive a lot of publicity, primarily because all the headlines centred on Brexit and the perception of an Immigration crisis. 

However, top London employment law solicitors had awaited the ‘good work plan’. The report had been promised in response to Matthew Taylor’s review on working practices.

The good work plan sets out the government’s vision for the labour market. It also indicates how it will implement 50 of the Taylor report recommendations. 

New legislation will be introduced to improve the quality of work and to offer more protection for categories of workers in the UK.  

Top London employment law solicitors think those employed on an agency basis, on a zero hour’s contract or on other non-standard employment terms should welcome the good work plan.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

OTS Solicitors specialise in employment law providing comprehensive advice to employers and employees on day-to-day employment law issues. 

We also provide bespoke training services for employers and human resource departments.  

For advice on any aspect of individual or company employment law, please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London employment solicitors.

The key points in the good work plan

Fair and decent work

The good work plan talks of employees being able to access “fair and decent work”. In essence, the plan aims to tackle some of the relatively recently introduced flexible working models. These are perceived to be good to employers but leave employees vulnerable.

The best London employment law solicitors have welcomed some of the proposals over current flexible working models. Without implementation of the Taylor report recommendations there was only likely to be an ever-increasing number of legal challenges being brought over the employment law status and rights of new style workers. 

Agency workers

The government has said that it will stop employers from being able to pay agency workers less than the employer’s directly employed work force. This is provided the agency staff have a contract of employment with the agency. 

The best London employment law solicitors anticipate that many employers may want to start looking at their employment of staff through agencies and the continued cost benefit ratio once the good work plan is implemented.  

Written terms and conditions – day one statements

The government has said that workers need to have basic information about their job from day one of them taking up work.

The reference to “workers” is considered important by top London employment law solicitors as “workers” covers employees, freelance staff, agency workers and other types of labour provision in the gig economy.   

The written terms and conditions or day one written statements for workers should cover:

• How long it is expected that a job will last for; and 

• Salary or remuneration details; and 

• Hours of work; and 

• Notice periods; and 

• Sick leave provision; and 

• Other types of paid leave entitlements, for example bereavement or maternity leave; and 

• Details of any probationary period.

The requirement to give the above information to workers on day one of their taking up work with a firm may create additional pressures on human resource managers. 

At present, the requirement is to provide employees with information within 2 months of joining an employer. The best London employment law solicitors know that some employers struggle to meet the current paperwork challenge. 

Training, improved communication between line managers and human resource departments and streamlined procedures to manage the provision of “day one statements” may be the key to ensuring that any new employment law legislation can be complied with.  

Holiday pay

The reference period when calculating holiday pay will be increased from 12 weeks to 12 months.

This planned change is designed to benefit seasonal workers to ensure that they receive the holiday pay that they are entitled to.

In addition, the government intends to introduce legislation to implement state enforcement of holiday pay. 

At present, if a worker is not paid holiday pay, they can try to challenge their employer and recover holiday pay. The best London employment law solicitors know that many employees do not receive their full entitlement to holiday pay but find the prospect of trying to recover their pay through the court or tribunal process too daunting.

In recognition of the issues workers can experience with holiday pay, the government says it will legislate to implement state enforcement of holiday pay. 

In future, a worker will be able to complain to a state enforcement body if they do not receive their holiday pay. The body will then pursue payment of holiday pay. There will be financial penalties imposed on employers for breaching payment of holiday pay.   

Top London employment law solicitors see the planned changes on holiday pay as another challenge for human resource managers. Often the problems between employer and worker over holiday pay can stem from the casual nature of worker’s employment and record keeping. Training and procedures may be the key to employer’s successfully navigating and statutory state enforcement body.

Zero hours contracts

The government is proposing that workers are given a right to request a fixed working pattern after they have worked for a firm for 26 weeks.

Whilst worker bodies have welcomed the right to ask for a fixed working pattern, they criticise the proposal for lack of detail and follow up. That is because all the worker is entitled to do is make the request, the employer does not have to provide a fixed working pattern following the request.

The best London employment law solicitors anticipate that there will be ongoing calls to strengthen the rights of zero hour workers after 6 months of working for an employer. That is because zero hour contracts have been such a contentious issue as flexibility for employer and security for worker do not sit easily.

Staff tips

Employers will not be able to deduct money from tips given to staff. This will be a welcome proposal to those working in service industries. However, the best London employment law solicitors anticipate that this change may affect some employers’ bottom line profitability and prompt a review of worker salaries and terms.

Continuous service

Currently the period required to break the continuous service of an employee for employment law rights is one week. The proposal is to increase the period to four weeks.

Potentially, if an employer employs a casual worker on a regular basis they could gain employment law rights if their continuous service periods are not broken for more than four weeks at a time. The employment law rights would include the right to bring an unfair dismissal claim and for redundancy

The implementation of this proposal may prove a headache for employers who want to achieve flexibility of staff over periods of high demand but prefer to employ the same casual workers to provide continuity. The best employment law solicitors say that in future continuity of casual staff may come at the cost of additional employment law rights for those workers.

Information and consultation arrangements

The government plans to lower the threshold required for a request to set up workforce information and consultation arrangements from 10% to 2% of the work force. In the view of the top London employment law solicitors, this is likely to lead to more requests.

Employment Tribunal changes 

The best London employment law solicitors have noted planned changes to employment tribunals. 

The government plans to introduce a new naming scheme. Employers who fail to pay Employment Tribunal, awards could be named. 

Other reforms of the Employment Tribunal system are proposed such as increasing the maximum Employment Tribunal fines for employers who are found to have shown malice or gross oversight from £5,000 to £20,000.

An important change, from the perspective of top London employment law solicitors is the ability of the Employment Tribunal to impose sanctions on an employer if they fight a case and lose, having already lost a similar employment law claim based on similar facts. This planned change reinforces the need for specialist employment law advice.

employment status tests

The Taylor Review recommended that employment status for employment law rights and for tax purposes should be aligned.

The government has said that it accepts the Taylor recommendation to streamline the employment status for the purposes of tax and employment law rights.

However, there is very little detail in the good work plan as to how this goal will be achieved. The government has said that it will obtain independent research before formulating legislation on how to align the definition of employment law status for the purposes of employee rights and tax.

Next steps for employers?

The top employment law solicitors now know that employment law change is on its way and have identified the need for employers to start to address employment law practices ahead of the planned employment law changes. 

Employers therefore need to start to think about:

• Procedures to produce terms and conditions of employment law in a key statement of employment on day 1 of a new worker joining a firm; and 

• The use of casual staff and the potential impact of those staff acquiring employment law rights through changes to continuous service rules. Does the advantages of consistency of casual staff trump the consequences of them obtaining employment law rights; and 

• The use of umbrella companies to supply staff to an employer. If employers chose to continue to use umbrella companies they may need to fully investigate their choice of company. They will also need to exercise far greater control over an umbrella company’s supply of staff; and 

• The prospect that both employees and workers will have a clearer idea of their employment law rights and be willing to use them, backed up by new statutory bodies.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

Top London employment law solicitors recommend that all employers start to get ready for the good work plan.

In the view of OTS Solicitors, it is never too early to plan for change. In addition to providing employment law advice to individual employees and workers, OTS Solicitors also advise employers on employment law for businesses and provides bespoke training services to companies.

For advice on any aspect of individual or company employment law or information about our employment law training services please call us on 0203 959 9123 to arrange an appointment to speak to one of our experienced London employment solicitors.

 

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