In 2017 an independent review was undertaken of modern working practices in the UK and how we can benefit from new technologies, emerging business models and changing ways of working whilst ensuring the protection of workers’ rights.

In response to this review, in 2018 the government set out a number of proposals that constitute its vision for the future of the UK labour market. This is known as the Good Work Plan.

Within the Good Work Plan the government commits to a wide range of policy and legislative changes to ensure that workers can access fair and decent work, that both employers and workers have the clarity they need to understand their employment relationships, and that the enforcement system is fair and fit for purpose.

The overall aim of the plan is to strengthen employment rights and improve working lives. It is therefore crucial that employers consider these changes and how they might impact on their current working practices, ensuring that they remain compliant with the law once reforms are underway.

There are three main strands that will need to be considered:

  • Fair and decent work

  • Clarity for employers and workers

  • Fairer enforcement

Fair and decent work

The first section of the plan reflects the government’s commitment that fair and decent work should be available to all.

Accordingly, one of the main proposals includes the right to request a more predictable and stable contract. This is a brand new right that will enable individuals on casual or zero-hour contracts with more than 26 weeks employment to request a minimum number of hours, as well as some certainty as to the days on which they will be required to work.

A more lenient approach will also be taken to any break in continuous service. Here the period required to break an individual’s continuity of service will be extended from one week to four weeks, thereby helping those who work on a sporadic or casual basis to qualify for greater employment rights.

Other proposals relate to greater protection for agency workers, the right to be involved in workplace discussions about topics such as redundancy, and ensuring tips and gratuities are passed directly to the worker.

Clarity for employers and workers

The second section of the plan reflects the government’s commitment to bring about greater clarity in the law and within employment relationships, particularly as they apply to rights and responsibilities in evolving employment business models.

Here, the main proposals relate to clarification of employment status for workers and the self-employed, the right of workers to receive a written statement containing the main terms and conditions of their employment, key terms for agency workers including minimum pay and any deductible fees, as well as a much fairer way of calculating holiday pay.

Fairer enforcement

The third section of the plan reflects the government’s commitment to ensuring fair enforcement when the law is broken, and furthermore, that it remains fit for purpose in the modern world.

Promoting justice is the central aim of these particular reforms. This includes naming and shaming employers who fail to pay compensation awards following defeat in the employment tribunal, expanding the remit of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to enforce agency worker rights in relation to umbrella companies, and state enforcement for non-payment of holiday pay to assist vulnerable workers.

Needless to say, taken together, all these changes represent a significant overhaul of our employment law system, and employers across the UK will need to be thoroughly prepared.