Government publishes “Good Work Plan” proposals for reforming gig economy

Following the Taylor Review on the impact of modern working practices and the “gig economy”, the government has set out its proposals to reform employment law, describing them as some of the biggest changes to workers’ rights in 20 years.

The key reforms are:

  • The right to request a fixed working pattern: this would apply to those who do not have a set working pattern, including workers on zero-hour contracts. These workers would have the right to request fixed hours of work after 26 weeks on a non-fixed pattern.

  • The right to a written statement of terms and conditions: this right will be extended to workers, as well as employees. In addition, employers will now have to give staff this document on the first day of work, rather than within 2 months as is the current rule;

  • Ban on employers making deductions from staff tips: this will end the unpopular practice of employers taking a cut of tips given by customers to waiting and kitchen staff;

  • Re-define types of employment status: this would clarify the different types of employment status, in an attempt to prevent employers from wrongly classifying employees or workers as self-employed; and

  • Continuity of employment: new rules will state that if a worker has a gap of up to 4 weeks between contracts with one employer, they will be treated as having been employed continuously through that period (an increase on the current 1-week rule); and

  • Agency workers’ pay: a new rule will prevent employers from paying their agency staff less than their own employees and/or workers in certain circumstances.

Whilst the Government has described the reforms as the “largest upgrade in workers’ rights in over a generation”, trade unions have expressed concerns that the reforms do not go far enough to protect zero-hours contract workers. For example, the right to request a fixed working pattern simply means the right to have that request considered, as opposed to having it granted – employers will still have considerable discretion to refuse such requests if they can show a business rationale for doing so.

The Government has now begun to draft legislation and set a timetable for some of these proposals; most of the provisions will not come into force until April 2020. Therefore, whilst there is no current urgency, employers should keep these changes on their radars so they are not caught by surprise when they eventually come into force.

We will update you on developments in due course.