Is the Government’s ‘Good Work Plan’ just about Brexit?
There are some who believe that The Good Work Plan introduced in December 2018 by the Government has come about simply to assuage the concerns of many that Brexit will dilute workers rights. Of course, that’s if Brexit ever comes to pass (we’ll leave that debate for a different day!). But digging deeper, the plan sets out its vision for the future of the UK labour market which has definitely changed more in the last decade than at any other time in recent history, and it’s those changes I believe that are forming The Good Work Plan.
There’s been a lot of column inches dedicated to the gig economy and companies like Deliveroo and Uber not paying their employees when they’re on holiday or off sick for example. Gig workers are those who do not work fixed shifts, are not required to carry out a minimum number of hours each day or who can, in theory, work as much or as little as they choose – which throws the UK’s ‘atypical’ worker and his/her employment rights into a fog. The digital impact of our increasingly mobile lifestyle and working practices means that the days of staying in one office-based job for years seem much less attractive to employees – especially our millennial generation, and our working practices are shifting enormously – demanding that the legislation keeps pace. Enter the Government’s Good Work Plan.
The Taylor Review back in 2017 reviewed these modern working practices and looked at the emerging gig economy and outlined that all work in the UK should be ‘fair and decent’, provide clarity for workers and their employers and provide a fairer enforcement of rights – such as holiday pay. It recognised that since 2010 the UK has seen higher employment and lower unemployment in every region of the UK, and wages are growing faster than at any other time in the last decade. However, to ensure that the UK market remains flexible and responsive to market demands, the new Good Work Plan is committed to protecting workers rights and bringing clarity to employment law.
‘Fair and decent work’ will bring a more stable and predictable contract to address the perceived inequalities faced by workers under zero hours contracts. It will extend the break in continuous service – currently a break of one week severs this with an employer – so this will be extended to four weeks. It will protect agency workers who will be able to opt to change their rights to equal pay with their permanent counterparts in exchange for pay between assignments (“The Swedish Derogation” – evidence suggests many are not paid between assignments and the aim is to repeal this derogation). Finally, quality of work will be measured by job satisfaction, fair pay, participation and progression, well-being safety and security, and voice and autonomy.
There will also be improved clarity of employment status, enhanced rights to statements of terms and conditions – written from day one of employment – and a fairer enforcement of rights to statutory holiday pay. And a stark warning for those employers in breach of their obligations that there will be additional penalties – increasing from £5,000 to £20,000.
Ultimately, in an age where we now demand a better work-life balance, The Good Work Plan increasingly delivers on that promise – working to create an improved employment experience that will support work-life without impacting on productivity. An all-round healthier and more motivated workforce is better for everyone, and that definitely does more than pay lip-service to our Brexit woes.
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