NEWS: ‘Largest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation’

New legislation to upgrade workers’ rights has been introduced today - including a day one statement of rights for all workers setting out leave entitlements and pay.

The government has announced what it’s calling the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years.

The plans are set out on 17 December in the government’s Good Work Plan, its response to the independent Matthew Taylor review of the impact of modern working practices.

In highlights, new legislation will:

  • Extend the right to a day one written statement of rights to workers, going further to include detail on rights such as eligibility for sick leave and pay and details of other types of paid leave, such as maternity and paternity leave
  • Quadruple maximum employment tribunal fines for employers who are demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight from £5,000 to £20,000
  • Extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, ensuring those in seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to
  • Lower the threshold required for a request for Information and Consultation from 10% to 2% of the organisation (this is the right of employees to request that their employer sets up or changes arrangements to inform and consult them about issues in the organisation that affect them)
  • Close a loophole by repealing the Swedish derogation – which currently allows agency workers to be employed on cheaper rates than permanent counterparts
All workers will receive a written statement of their rights on day one of the job. Photograph: iStock

Business Secretary Greg Clark said ‘the world of work is changing’: “With new opportunity also comes new challenges and that is why the government asked Matthew Taylor to carry out this first of a kind review, to ensure the UK continues to lead the world, through our modern Industrial Strategy, in supporting innovative businesses whilst ensuring workers have the rights they deserve.

“Today’s largest upgrade in workers’ rights in over a generation is a key part of building a labour market that continues to reward people for hard work, that celebrates good employers and is boosting productivity and earning potential across the UK."

The TUC commented however that there were missed opportunities with some key reforms giving workers ‘as much power as Oliver Twist’.

Writing on her blog for the TUC, Kate Bell, head of the Rights, International, Social and Economics department said: “Rather than give workers the tools to build and enhance their rights, the government is urging them to reply on the good will of their employers.

Rather than a ban on zero hours contracts, we have a ‘right to request’ a more stable and predictable contract after six months in the job. The right to ask nicely is no right at all and will give insecure workers as much power as Oliver Twist.”

Responding to the government's announcement of the new legislation to upgrade workers' rights the British Safety Council urged the government to offer more protection to workers engaged on 'zero hours' contracts. 

David Parr, Policy and Technical Services Director, said: "The British Safety Council welcomes the government's intention to confirm basic employee protection rights for so-called 'gig' and agency workers. 

"However, we consider that much more needs to be done to offer protection around the principle of 'zero hours' contracts and, once again, urge the government to review the potential and actual impact of such working conditions on the health, safety and wellbeing of workers involved. "The British Safety Council's recent report on workplace wellbeing, Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work, clearly demonstrates that workers' wellbeing is inextricably linked to job quality and role satisfaction." 

More details on the government webpage here