The purpose of the Good Work Plan is to ensure that the UK adapts to the changing employment landscape, embracing change and the opportunities that change brings, while also protecting workers' rights.
The plan sets out a number of reforms that apply to all workers, but there is also a strong focus on strengthening employment rights for those in flexible employment, such as agency workers and gig economy workers.
What is the Good Work Plan?
The Government's 'Good Work Plan' was published in December 2018, in response to an independent review into modern working practices in the UK. The review was commissioned by the Prime Minister, in recognition of the modern challenges faced by workers and businesses in the UK.
This review – the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices – was published in July 2017, highlighting some key areas for attention. The Government took these recommendations, along with feedback received in a set of consultations, to formulate their Good Work Plan.
The overarching ambition of the Good Work Plan is for all work in the UK economy to be fair and decent, with workers having a realistic prospect of development and fulfilment in their role. This is what the Government defines as 'Good Work.'
Five principles have been identified as underpinning 'Good Work.' These are:
Overall worker satisfactionGood payParticipation and progressionWellbeing, safety and securityVoice and autonomy
What is in the Good Work Plan for Agency Workers?
The Good Work plan sets out several proposed employment law reforms to provide a better quality of employment to agency workers.
Repealing the Swedish Derogation
This is an existing legal loophole which means that agency workers can currently be paid less than those hired directly.
Under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, agency workers are entitled to the same pay and benefits as permanently employed workers after 12 weeks' service. However, under the Swedish Derogation these workers can be paid less than direct employees providing they have a contract of employment with their agency and they are paid between assignments.
Providing Specific Information to Agency Workers
Under the proposed regulations, companies would be legally obliged to provide agency workers with specific information about their employment. This includes:
- What type of contract they're employed under
- The minimum rate of pay they can expect to receive
- How they will be paid
- Whether they will be paid by an intermediary company, and if so:
- Details of any fees or deductions this company will take
- Details of how this impacts on their take-home pay
State Enforcement Protections
The proposals call for greater state enforcement protections for agency workers, when they have pay withheld or deductions made from their pay by an umbrella company for unclear reasons.
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What's in the Good Work Plan for All Workers?
There are also a number of proposals that apply to agency workers and non-agency workers alike.
Some of the key proposals for all workers include:
- A break of up to 4 weeks between contracts won't break continuity of employment, instead of the current 1 week.
- After 26 weeks' working on a non-fixed pattern, give workers the right to request a more stable contract and a fixed working pattern.
- Align employment status across employment law and tax, so that the same employment status will apply in both contexts. This would mean, for example, that someone who is self-employed for tax purposes would be recognised as self-employed for Employment Law purposes.
- Improve the clarity of employment status tests so that businesses cannot misclassify their workers.
- Entitle workers to receive a written statement of rights on their first day of work (currently this can be provided up to 2 months after their first day), and extend the information given to include sick leave eligibility, pay and details of the types of leave available to them.
- Ban employers from making any deductions from staff tips.
- Increase the holiday pay reference period to 52 weeks, instead of the current 12 weeks. This means that workers will be entitled to holiday pay that is a more accurate reflection of their hours.
- Extend state enforcement on behalf of vulnerable workers to make businesses liable for underpayment of holiday pay.
While the Good Work Plan does address many of the issues raised in the Taylor Review, some campaigners and trade unions feel that the plans don't fully accommodate the needs of gig economy workers. These campaigners would like to see an end to low wages in the gig economy and an abolition of zero hours contracts, amongst other things.
The proposals set out in the Good Work plan are expected to come into force in April 2020.