The Good Work Plan, published by the Government in December, sets out as number of proposed changes to employment law legislation. These primarily arise out of the Matthew Taylor report into modern employment practices and the gig economy.
The government has already published some of the draft legislation with the intention to bring the changes into force in April 2020, allowing employers to plan and prepare for the changes.
We have summarised the key proposals below:
Although it is the responsibility of an employee to get to work an employer still has a degree of health and safety responsibility in relation to an individual's journey to and from work.
There, if it is clearly unsafe for an employee to travel to work (for example those living in areas which were subject to red warnings last week) should not be required to attend work and businesses should also consider taking steps to discourage employees not to attend work where to do so would be hazardous.
The government has rejected calls to outlaw zero hour contracts altogether as the evidence of employers and workers is that such contracts are necessary and/or preferable for all involved in many circumstances.
It has however proposed a new right for zero hour workers to request a fixed working arrangement once they have been employed for more than 26 weeks on the zero hour contract. Such arrangements may include an agreed minimum hours of work each week (with the flexibility to work more) or an agreement that work will be made available on certain days only so that workers can better plan for time off or second jobs.
It is envisaged that this process will work in a similar way to flexible working requests where the employer will have 3 months to respond, will be entitled to reject any request but will have to explain why it is not accepting a request. Once draft regulations are published we will have a clearer idea of how this process will work.
Currently employees but not workers (e.g. agency workers or zero hour workers) are entitled to receive written particulars of employment within the first two months of employment. These written particulars must contain key information such as rate of pay, holiday, sick pay and notice entitlements.
Under the new proposals all employees and workers will be entitled to receive written particulars on the first day of employment and further information will need to be provided such as details of maternity and paternity entitlement and the duration and terms of any probationary period.
This proposal means that employers will need to be better prepared in respect of new recruits and may want to start issuing contracts or statements of terms with job offer letters.
As a result of recent decisions in the UK and European courts and tribunals a lot of uncertainty has arisen regarding holiday entitlement for those whose hours of work or earnings are irregular. In order to simplify the process and avoid seasonal anomalies which can either benefit or disadvantage workers.
Effectively this means that an individuals’ holiday entitlement and pay will be based on the total amount of work they carry out over an entire year rather than a 12 week period and therefore will be in line with the way in which many agencies have calculated holiday pay.
The Government has proposed a review of the current law in relation to employment status in order to try and provide more certainty to both businesses and individuals. This is likely to be a lengthy process due to the complexity of employment status law but we believe that Worker status is likely to be redefined in order to clearly bring into its ambit may individual self-employed persons who provide personal labour only services to clients such as couriers and labourers.
We will be keeping abreast of the consultation and providing further updates in due course.
By Guy Woodcock
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