New workplace reforms announced – take note of the requirements

At long last the Government has announced its response to the Matthew Taylor report on modern working practices, published in July 2017. Mr Taylor is a former aide to Tony Blair and is currently the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts. He was charged by the previous Conservative government with reviewing employment law practices, with a particular emphasis on the emergence of the “gig economy”, characterised by zero hours contracts. The Government’s response and recommendations in the “Good Work Plan“, a 62 page detailed response which, commendably, lists all 53 recommendations in the Taylor Report and provides itemised responses

According to the BBC, significant changes will take effect from Monday 24 December, including an entitlement to a written statement for all workers (not just employees) of terms and conditions from the first day of a person commencing work (currently within two months). However, I am not sure that this is correct since secondary legislation will be required and, given the Government’s busy schedule, I can’t see it being fitted in in the near future. However, it makes sense to prepare for the changes and change procedures, where necessary to do so, as soon as possible.

It is no surprise that zero hours contracts have not been banned. When being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 earlier this week Mr Taylor cited the example of the trial run by McDonalds (referred to in my earlier blog posts on the topic) in which employees were offered the choice of fixed hours or zero hours contracts. Only 20% took the fixed hours option, thereby demonstrating that zero hours contracts do work for some people.

Among other notable accepted proposals, as matters stand, a break in service of one week does not affect the calculation of the qualifying period for continuous service. In future, breaks of up to four weeks will be disregarded.

Additional information in the form of a Key Facts Page will be provided to all agency workers at the start of each contract, setting out their contractual and employment rights, so that they are clearly understood from the outset.

Significantly, written statements of terms of employment (to be issued to both employees and workers from day one). Additional information required to be provided includes:

Is the National Living Wage causing problems?

I think that most employers would take the view that the principle that employees should be paid a fair wage for their work is one that should be supported. However, sometimes a one size fits all approach can throw up anomalies. I should be clear: I’m not talking about those who exploit people to work excessively long hours for very poor pay (as low as £2.00 per hour), often in plainly unacceptable working conditions. I’ve written in this blog about people who have been kept effectively as slaves in the most appalling circumstances and these employers should be rooted out and dealt with severely, where appropriate in the criminal courts.

It is worth remembering that, when introduced on 1 April 1999, the adult National Minimum Wage was £3.60 per hour. Since then, it increased steadily for a number of years (around or a little ahead of inflation) but the big jump came on 1 April 2016 when it was hiked from £6.70 to £7.20 as part of the merger and rebrand as the National Living Wage. Subsequent increases (including those coming into effect on 1 April 2018) are here.

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Employees who are paid below the minimum wage can complain to an employment tribunal or to HMRC. If HMRC upholds the complaint the employer can be sent a notice of arrears plus a penalty. The maximum fine for non-payment (in addition to making good the arrears) is £20,000 per worker. In recent years HMRC have made a point of publishing (with high profile PR) lists of those businesses that have paid below the prescribed rates. It is not widely known that, in addition, directors of defaulting companies can be banned from being directors (or shadow directors) of any company for up to fifteen years.

So, what are the problems referred to in the title?

Can workers receive payment for ‘sleeping’ at work?!

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently considered this question, more specifically whether workers are entitled to the national minimum wage when ‘on-call’ (or sleeping!) at work. In the case of Focus Care Agency v Roberts, along with two other cases heard at the same time (Frudd v The Partington Group Ltd and Royal Mencap Society…

More news about modern working practices and the “gig economy”

Last week’s news was dominated by the Budget and the Class 4 National Insurance contributions’ increase which was announced and then, within 24 hours, kicked into the long grass. An interesting fact which emerged in the news is that the UK workforce now includes 15% who are classed a self-employed for tax purposes. However, as…

Employment law changes – October 2016

April is not the only month when legislative changes are introduced – employers and employees should be aware of the following changes, which were implemented on 1st October 2016: National Minimum Wage– the standard adult rate for workers aged 21 and over increased to £6.95, the development rate for those aged 18-20 to £5.55, the young…

A Guide to the National Living Wage

If you have had the opportunity to read my previous blog post ‘Key Employment Law Changes’, you will be aware that from 1st April 2016, all employers are under a duty to comply with new obligations under the ‘National Living Wage’ regulations. It is important that small business owners in particular are aware of the…

Key employment law changes

As you may or may not be aware, each year in April the Government introduces new legislation in respect of employment rights and responsibilities.  Below is a summary of the key changes being implemented this month. National Living Wage From 1st April 2016, workers aged 25 and over are entitled to the ‘national living wage’…

What do you need to know about the living wage?

Mimicking the late Steve Jobs’ “…and there’s one last thing” announcements at Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conferences, Chancellor George Osborne delayed the announcement the implementation of a compulsory national living wage (NLW) until near the end of his Summer Budget speech. Perhaps the easiest way of understanding the new arrangements is that, in effect, they boil…