November 12, 2019
The Good Work Plan: What’s Changing and When?
Do you remember 2017, when the UK Parliament’s every pronouncement didn’t start or end with the word “Brexit”?
That was the year the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, commissioned a guy called Matthew Taylor to review employment law. The laudable objective was that work in the UK should be fair and decent with realistic hope for development and fulfilment.
A key focus of the Good Work Plan was gig economy workers. The review included fifty recommendations to better protect these individuals. While many of these are still languishing in the Government store cupboard – surrounded by a sea of Brexit fog – there is a major change from April 2020 you need to be aware of.
Read on for a reminder of Matthew Taylor’s Good Work Plan, an overview of the gig economy and imminent changes to issuing written terms and conditions.
The Gig economy – is someone employed, self-employed or a worker?
In fairness, with technology increasingly influencing every work environment, there was plenty for Matthew Taylor to go at. A lot of employment law simply didn’t fit the 21st century economy. Do you remember the catalogue of tribunal and court cases about whether someone was employed, self-employed or a worker? A procession of big names like Uber, Deliveroo, Hermes and Addison Lee found themselves facing major legal challenges.
At the heart of all the claims was the assertion that those undertaking such work were genuinely self-employed. The courts mainly determined otherwise.
New ways of working were everywhere. They were made possible by the omnipresent internet and facilitated by instantaneous communication via smartphones and apps. This new environment became known as the “gig” economy but those working within it certainly weren’t pop stars. The work was generally low paid. Only a minority of those performing “gigs” did so as their principal livelihood.
And we were trying to pigeon-hole “gig” work into an employment system using legal definitions from a bygone era. The Taylor Review called “gig” work the phenomenon of new smartphone and app technology. Effectively, it matched sellers and buyers of goods and services. Unfortunately, piggy in the middle were those delivering those goods and services. Their terms and conditions often seemed to infringe statutory provisions: other companies felt at a competitive disadvantage.
Taylor’s “Good Work Plan” featured fifty recommendations to put this right. Clear definitions of employment, the right to a predictable and stable contract, guaranteed days and hours of work etc. However, with Brexit delaying most recommendations, who knows if and when important issues such as clear definitions of “employee” “worker” and “self-employed” will ever emerge?
From April 2020 you will have to issue written terms and conditions on day one of employment
Hang on though; a few of Taylor’s fifty shades of grey in the Good Work Plan have actually, Colditz style, tunnelled their way out. The problem isn’t just that they’re relatively peripheral ones. The big issue is that it’s overburdened employers that, once again, end up with an unnecessary mess to sort out.
A classic example is that from next April you will have to issue written terms and conditions on day one. Currently you have two months from someone starting work to do this. The government suggests you issue contracts in advance but doing so may cause you problems. Would you have to dismiss someone who simply didn’t turn up for their first shift because you’d issued their contract?
Several other mandatory changes to written terms affect things like probation, training, leave and remuneration. Another legislative change amends the statutory reference period for calculating holiday pay from twelve to fifty-two weeks. Admittedly, it’s only of major significance for staff with variable remuneration and it may even be helpful. But it’s yet something else for you to do that you could well do without.
How do I go about issuing written particulars on day one of employment?
The good news for Moorepay customers who subscribe to our HR services is that most documentation is already compliant or easily adjusted. We will also provide guidance about issuing written particulars on day one of employment. We’ll offer model wording so, if you do issue written particulars in advance, you are not inadvertently compromised. For instance, what if you withdraw a conditional offer of employment having sent out a contract?
Of course – as sixties Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, once said – a week is a long time in politics. And that’s never been truer than right now. By next April an awful lot could have changed yet again.
But don’t worry – our parliamentary tracking app is switched to auto-update. We’ll keep you regularly informed as time ticks on and other matters (OMG not Brexit!) also inevitably intervene.