A series of measures designed to protect workers’ rights—particularly those in the gig economy—have been announced by the UK government in its response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.
Changes include stricter enforcement of holiday and sick pay rights; higher fines for firms that breach contracts or mistreat staff; improving pay transparency for agency workers; giving all workers the right to demand a payslip; and allowing flexible workers to demand more stable contracts.
Business secretary Greg Clark said the “Good Work plan” puts the UK at the front of the pack in addressing the challenges and opportunities of modern ways of working, but the proposals have been criticised for being too timid and not addressing key issues.
But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government has taken a baby step—when it needed to take a giant leap. These plans will still leave 1.8 million workers excluded from key protections.”
Susannah Kintish, a partner at legal services firm Mishcon de Reya, is representing Pimlico Plumbers in the long-running worker rights case due to be heard at the Supreme Court this month. She said: “The government seems to have shied away from tackling a key issue which many believe is at the heart of the challenge around the gig economy: that of how people are taxed, something which may hamper attempts to properly reform the modern workplace.”
Although the response includes important measures to improve employment rights for the most vulnerable, said Nigel Meager, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, “like the Taylor report itself, it completely misses some areas (e.g., pensions, training, maternity rights) where there is clear evidence of vulnerability among the growing populations of self-employed and gig economy workers”.
While the response sets out the government’s intention to take forward nearly all of the Taylor Review’s recommendations, there are very few specific proposals, and much of the detail will be the subject of further consultation, said Colin Leckey, a partner at HR lawyers Lewis Silkin.
“The Taylor Review’s recommendations could be the catalyst for a significant shake-up of employment law to meet the challenges of the changing world of work, but of course it remains to be seen how bold the prime minister will be in the context of competing priorities in the run-up to Brexit.”