The UK will be ‘one of the first countries in the world’ to address risks from working in the modern economy, the government has trumpeted in publishing its ‘Good Work Plan’.
The document, released on 7 February, is a response to Matthew Taylor’s 2017 Review of modern working practices and includes responses to all 53 of his recommendations.
Highlights include a pledge to enhance existing laws so that all workers including agency and zero-hour workers receive the terms of their employment on day one of the job, not just employees.
The right to holiday and sick pay will also be for the first time enforced by HM Revenue and Customs. The government will investigate the scale of non-compliance and evaluate the best way to target its enforcement activity.
As well as greater enforcement of existing rights, the government is to launch a suite of consultations to reform the law more fully on workers’ rights.
Among these, it will consult on Taylor’s new category of “dependent contractor” – people who are eligible for workers’ rights but are not employees – using the degree of control the employer imposes on them as the basis for the test.
Matthew Taylor said that the government should create a right to request a contract that guarantees hours for zero-hour workers who have been employed for over a year. In response, the government said it will consult and apply this to a wider group of workers.
But unions and organisations have criticised the government’s cautious approach.
Torsten Bell, of the Resolution Foundation, in his blog post “Deeds not words”, wrote that: “The risk is that the government’s response gives us topics of conversation when what Britain really needs is an agenda for action.
“Zero and short-hour contracts workers should have a right to a contract that reflects the hours they actually work – not just a right to request that can easily be rejected.”
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary, said: “This report looks like a consummate guide to tinkering around the edges – like trying to put out a forest fire with a water pistol.”
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said that while they welcomed plans to help people recover the holiday and sick pay they’re due, action needed to be taken on ‘grey areas’: “The government consultation on the rights of gig economy workers leaves thousands of people in limbo with respect to their rights. With their employment status a grey area, people remain at risk of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous bosses.”
The government says the overhaul of rights to fit the modern economy will help boost Britain’s productivity as part of its Industrial Strategy, which aims to generate good jobs and greater earning power for everyone.
“We want to embrace new ways of working, and to do so we will be one of the first countries to prepare our employment rules to reflect the new challenges,” said Greg Clark, secretary of state for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the preface to the report. “The ‘Good Work plan’ puts the UK at the front of the pack in addressing the challenges and opportunities of modern ways of working.”
Read the Good Work Plan here
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