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Good work

Tina Chander a partner and Head of the Employment team at Wright Hassall on the Government’s plans to increase workers’ rights with the introduction of the Good Work Plan

Since 2010, the UK has experienced lower unemployment rates across every region, underpinned by a strong and innovative labour market.

Britain now finds itself in a strong position to benefit from the new industrial revolution, as existing employment laws and policies have found a balance between flexibility and worker protections.

The government unveiled its Good Work Plan in December 2018 as a carefully detailed strategy to strengthen worker’s rights and improve employment laws.

Labelled as ‘the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years’, the plan builds on the Taylor Review recommendations of February 2018 and outlines an intention to improve conditions for agency, zero-hour and other atypical workers.

One of the main issues addressed is ‘one-sided flexibility’, which recognises some businesses have transferred too much business risk to the individual.

New legislation will give workers the right to request a more stable contract, allowing them to benefit from flexible working.

Those happy to work varied hours each week can do so, but others will be allowed to request a fixed working pattern after 26 weeks of service.

For those working zero-hour contracts, this change will enable them to request a contract that guarantees a minimum number of weekly hours.

The Good Work Plan also addresses Swedish derogation, which currently allows agency workers to exchange their right to be paid equally to permanent counterparts in return for a contract guaranteeing pay between assignments.

Although the intentions of Swedish derogation were to offer reassurance that individuals would still earn during quieter periods, some employers have been using this opt-out to reduce their pay bill.

The government aims to repeal Swedish derogation with new legislation, banning the use of this type of contract to withhold equal pay rights.

In order to create a level playing field between businesses, there needs to be effective enforcement.

The government plans to extend state enforcement for vulnerable workers, introducing tough financial penalties – an approach that already applies to underpayment of the National Minimum Wage.

This involves increasing enforcement protections for agency workers where they have pay withheld or unclear deductions made, while new legislation will increase the maximum penalty imposed during tribunals.

While the Good Work Plan looks set to bring about some wholesale changes to employment law and workers’ rights, there have been other broader developments in 2019.

In April, new legislation under the Employment Rights Act 1996 came into force, introducing a right for all workers to be provided with an itemised pay statement.

On the same day, other legislation required itemised payslips to contain the number of hours paid if a worker is paid hourly.

With the arrival of the Good Work Plan, it’s important that organisations take the time to review the proposed changes, understanding the requirements outlined in the legislation.

If you’re unsure about the developments, it’s important to consult a legal team with significant experience of employment law and the imminent changes.

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