Comment: Government proposes new worker rights

The Government has proposed a raft of new worker rights in its response to the Taylor Review, published in July 2017 (Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices). While the Government has been criticised for taking so long to respond to the review and for not making any immediate changes, the proposals will be of interest to the retail sector if and when they are implemented, as it seems likely many will be. 

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, was appointed by the Government in late 2016 to conduct an independent review of the impact of modern working models on the rights of workers. Much of the focus of the review was on the impact of the gig economy on those who work in it, but the review was wider than that and it resulted in a huge number of recommendations aimed at improving the working life of casual and atypical workers.  

Most of those recommendations have been enthusiastically embraced by the Government, although the precise detail and extent of their implementation will not be known until the conclusion of four consultations launched by the Government on 7 February 2018. The Government is seeking opinions on employment status, increasing transparency in the labour market, agency workers and the enforcement of employment rights. 

As things stand, these proposals will be of interest in the retail sector:

  • A right for zero hours, agency workers and other workers to request a more stable and predictable contract based on their regular hours
  • Increasing the pay reference period from 12 weeks to 52 weeks for the calculation of holiday pay to better take account of seasonal variations
  • A requirement that workers be provided with details of their “day-one” rights, in the same way employees must be given a statement of terms and conditions at the start of their employment
  • Workers to be given a payslip so it is easier for them to understand what hours they have been paid for
  • The Low Pay Commission to analyse the impact of higher minimum wage rates for zero hours contracts
  • Better protection to ensure unpaid interns are not doing jobs they should be paid for
  • Making it easier for intermittent workers to accrue continuous service (currently continuous service is broken by a gap of one complete week)
  • The possibility of adopting a new test to determine someone’s employment status

The Government clearly has a lot on its plate at the moment and there are frustrations in some quarters that it has simply bought more time by issuing these four consultations. However, it is fair to say that the Government it has shown commitment to this particular cause and so we should expect many of these recommendations to be implemented.