Gig economy’ reprieved in overhaul of workplace rights

The government has responded to the Taylor Review into workplace rights by adopting the majority of its recommendations to provide greater protection for workers on flexible or zero hour contracts.

The working economy has changed substantially and with it the need to ensure that all workers are treated fairly. Matthew Taylor’s 2017 investigation into the ‘gig economy’ and those on zero-hours or flexible contracts highlighted the need for some recognition of how this kind of working impacted on workers’ rights and employers’ obligations.

In a report titled ‘Good Work’, the government has taken in 51 of 53 Taylor recommendations and pledged to provide greater protection for agency and gig economy workers. It stopped short, however, of going as far as banning the contracts completely. Instead, new rules to be introduced will:

  • Ensure agency staff are paid at the same level as permanent employees.
  • Increase the holiday reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, so that seasonal or other workers receive their entitlement of paid time off.
  • Require companies to provide a written statement of rights to workers from the first day of employment, setting out paid leave, sickness and maternity/paternity leave entitlements.
  • Increase employment tribunal fines four-fold from £5,000 to £20,000

Other provisions have been proposed to ‘name and shame’ employers who do not make employment tribunal payments. This will operate similarly to the scheme around employers who fail to meet their national minimum wage obligations.

The announcements were met with the expected up-beat assessment from the government and criticisms from trades unions and Labour, who feel the provisions do not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable workers. The national minimum wage is also under scrutiny in a separate consultation which closes in March.

Employers who have workers on flexible or zero -hour contracts will need to be aware of the changes outlined in the ‘Good Work’ report that are likely to go through to legislation. As with all employment issues, clarity and fairness are the bywords. If you need any guidance for your business, we’re here to help.


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