The Government has given its response to the Taylor Review into working practices in the UK. It has stated its intention to implement almost all the review’s suggestions with particular attention to ensuring that flexibility is genuinely two-way.
There are 4 main areas that the review said needed action. The government have given their views on each of these. It intends to consult with business on the recommendations prior to implementation.
The first area is that of employment status which has been of great debate over the last several years. They agree that it needs to be easier to determine who is an employee, worker or self-employed. They intend to do this by potentially amending current legislation or introduce an online tool to determine status. There was a suggestion in the review to add a further tier of employment status of ‘dependent contractor’ but this has not been adopted. Instead the government may consider renaming ‘worker’ to ‘dependent contractor’. The consultation will also look at how to avoid sham self-employment, one of the main accusations against employers is that they claim their workforce is self-employed when in reality they are at least workers or even employees.
The second area that the review looked at was the rights of agency workers. The consultation looks to improve transparency and the potential removal of Swedish derogation contracts where workers are paid between periods of work.
The third area is that of transparency in the labour market so that workers know what they are entitled to and what conditions they are working under. The first of these is a written statement of particulars for all workers, not just employees as it is currently. The government says that all workers should get the right to request more predictable working conditions and atypical workers continuity of service should be easier to obtain by increasing the time between jobs to maintain this to longer than a week (as it is currently). Another important area of employment law is the reference period over which holiday pay should be calculated for those who work variable hours. Currently 12 weeks, this could be increased to 52 to ensure that all peaks and troughs throughout the year are factored in. The Government is also going to look at compulsory itemised payslips for all and making it clearer for people to be aware of their pregnancy and maternity rights.
The Government also acknowledges that implementing these new rights will have little effect in practice if they do not get to grips with enforcement. One of the criticisms of workers’ rights in the UK is the lack of enforcement and many require individual complaints which some may not have the will or the means to pursue. To prevent this, the proposal is for the government to enforce these rights on behalf of the most vulnerable in the workplace. First, they are going to gather information on the scale of the problem then decide on how to tackle it. This is also tied in with introducing a right to return from sickness and an increase in SSP eligibility. Naming and shaming is also proposed to deal with companies that do not pay awards and tougher awards against companies who have not complied with tribunal judgements.
It has been argued by critics that the consultation by the Government is simply a way of kicking the can down the road and that some Taylor review suggestions could be introduced now. Whether they do follow through on these suggestions remains to be seen but it will be something we will be keeping a close eye on as it will impact the day to day running of businesses big and small throughout the UK.