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Workers’ rights and the Good Work Plan

As lawyers issue warnings about the weakening of UK employment law post-Brexit and predict confusion in the courts, the government is moving forward with its Good Work Plan. Launched in December by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Plan is the government’s proposal for maintaining workers’ legal rights once the UK leaves the EU and is touted as the ‘biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years’. Whether the truth matches that description is for you to decide once you’ve read the following summary of its contents.

A bit of context

The Good Work Plan is a response to the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which made recommendations on:

  • new forms of work
  • use of digital platforms
  • new working models

These current workplace issues include zero hours contracts and the gig economy, and changes in the use of agency workers. The government accepted the majority of the recommendations and carried out consultations on employment status, agency workers, transparency in the labour market and the enforcement of employment rights. The Good Work Plan is intended to be the practical application of the Taylor Review.

What’s definite?

From the 6th April 2020, there are changes to:

Statement of written terms – To be given to employees and workers on or before day one of their employment. Must cover details of hours and days of work, paid leave, entitlements to training (if any), and whether the new recruit will go through probationary period or not.

Goodbye to the Swedish derogation – “Swedish derogation” refers to ‘pay between assignments’ contracts for agency workers; these will become unlawful.

Holiday pay periods – For workers on variable hours and/or pay, the reference period for calculating holiday pay rates will change from 12 to 52 weeks.

What may happen in the future

There’s many a slip ‘twixt legislation and reality but the following measures are laid out in the Good Work Plan:

The right to request certainty – Likely working just like a request for flexible working, workers on variable hours or days will – after 26 weeks’ service – be able to request a more predictable or stable contract. As with flexible working requests, a ‘yes’ is not guaranteed but it’s likely that employers will need a fair reason for saying ‘no’.

Breaks between periods of work – For seasonal or casual workers, the necessary break of one week between working periods to avoid them being seen as continuous service will increase to four.

No employer deductions from employees’ tips – No further explanation needed.

Holiday pay – As part of increasing understanding of holiday pay, new guidance on pay rules will be issued, including an online holiday pay calculator.

Employment status – This issue is still confusing to employers, particularly those working in the gig economy. While there are no concrete proposals for change at this stage, research into status uncertainty and the impact on affected workers is ongoing.

And finally, the whole thing may be complicated or adjusted in light of the fact that the latest nugget on the Brexit table is a proposal to allow MPs to vote on adopting new EU employment legislation in the future, thus maintaining a parity of employment rights with the Continent.

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