The world of work is changing rapidly, with home working, flexible contracts and the ‘gig economy’ becoming common. In the UK, the many rules and regulations governing employment relationships cannot keep up with the fast pace of change. This was the case even before the pandemic. In October 2016, the government commissioned an independent review into modern UK working practices. Known as the Taylor Review, this found that, even then, employment law was often unfit for purpose when it came to new forms of working, known as the “gig economy”. Of the 51 recommendations from the Taylor Review that were accepted by the government and published in their “Good Work Plan”, only a few have since been actioned.
WHAT HAS CHANGED SO FAR?
From April 2020 all workers have had the right to a written statement of the main terms of their contract from the day they start work. The time period for determining how much holiday pay someone is entitled to has been increased, so that holiday pay reflects a full year’s work which can be important for people whose hours vary significantly during the year. All agency workers can now expect pay parity with permanent staff after 12 weeks on an assignment. And it’s now slightly easier for employees who want their employer to set up formal consultation and information arrangements with them to push that through (but only if there are at least 50 employees in the UK).
WHAT IS YET TO BE CHANGED?
But many of the accepted recommendations of the Taylor Review are still nowhere near coming into force. The Queen’s Speech last week was going to include an Employment Bill, first announced in December 2019, to include further improvements and safeguards – but this was shelved. This means that important rights such as better protection for people on zero hours contracts and casual staff, clarity on employment status helping both employers and employees to understand who has which employment rights, Tribunal service modernisation, and reforms to statutory sick pay are now unlikely to be enacted at by this government (on the assumption that a general election may be called before it can do so).
Other important actions such as improving redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents, extending the right to request flexible working, giving employers more responsibility for preventing sexual harassment at work, introducing a right to neonatal pay and leave and reviewing family-related leave and pay more generally were also expected to be in the Bill, and have also stalled. With so many pressures on working families at present this seems a missed opportunity. Promised legislation to require hospitality businesses to pass tips on to their staff will also be further delayed.
WHAT CAN WE DO IN THE MEANTIME?
Without new legislation in place to address these important rights, employees remain reliant on the goodwill of their employer and their own negotiating skills to ensure the best possible work life balance. If you know you need to start a conversation with your employer about your hours, workload or any other issues but aren’t sure how to begin, YESS can help. We can help you articulate your concerns, advise you about your legal rights and realistic outcomes, and support you in both raising your concerns and proposing solutions.
Contact us today to see how we can help.