Just when we thought that all news is Brexit news, the Government publishes its proposals for the modern workplace, its ‘vision for the future of the UK labour market’. For those feeling particularly “Scrooge-like” this festive season, the absence of any draft legislation or proposed time frame is disappointing – although the BBC and the Financial Times gave us all a fright by announcing the changes were effective from this week!

When will the changes be introduced?

We have contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who confirmed that from today, they would start to work on the legislation to implement the proposed changes.
BEIS said, “We will work closely with businesses to help them prepare for these measures coming into force. All measures, aside from increasing the aggravated breach penalty, are due to come into force in April 2020, to allow employers sufficient time to adapt. The aggravated breach penalty increase will come into force in April 2019.”

What are the key proposed changes?

Here is what is in the Government’s stocking of promises and proposals:

Package one – Changes to one-sided flexibility

  • Zero-hours workers will be able to request, after 26 weeks of service, a more fixed working pattern. There are no further details as to reasons for refusal or how long this process will last – commentators have noted that it might be like the right to request flexible working;
  • New rules relating to continuity of employment – legislation will introduce a change so that a break of up to four weeks in employment with the same employer will not break continuity; and
  • The abolition of contracts whereby agency workers are put on contracts where they opt out of equality of pay with their permanent colleagues in return for payment between contracts – known in some circles as “The Swedish Derogation”.

Package two – Quality of work

  • Employers will no longer be able to deduct monies from staff tips; and
  • Employees will have the right to set up information and consultation agreements where there are 15 employees or more where 2% of the workforce agree, previously 15% of the workforce had to agree.

Package three – Clarity for workers

  • Legislation to assist with identifying employment status aligning the employment and tax frameworks, focusing on the control test and improved guidance and online tools. It is anticipated that this will make it easier for individuals to argue that they are employees rather than workers or self-employed.

Package four – Clarity of information

  • All workers will have the right to a written statement of particulars (i.e. contract of employment) from day one of their employment – currently, this does not have to be issued for 12 weeks;
  • All agency workers are to be given a Key Facts Page from the employment business; and
  • The holiday pay reference period when calculating holiday pay for irregular pattern workers will be extended from 12 weeks to 52 weeks to make it fairer, in particular, for seasonal workers.

Package five – Fairer enforcement

  • There will be additional penalties (up to £20,000 for an aggravated breach, an increase from the previous limit of £5,000) for employers who breach their obligations to employees.  

Do keep an eye out for future briefings as and when we receive draft legislation and proposed time frame.

For more information

If you require any assistance with your workforce arrangements, please get in touch with your usual contact in our Employment Team, or you can select a sector to find out more about our employment work.