Workers are to be given better protection following a series of proposed changes made by the government, in what is being claimed as the biggest reform in 20 years.
Key proposals include:
- Giving workers a right to a written statement of terms. Currently, this right only extends to employees.
- Requiring employers to give a written statement of terms on the first day of work rather than within two months of starting work which current legislation dictates.
- Workers to be given a right to request a fixed working pattern after 26 weeks on a non-fixed pattern.
- Changing the rules on continuity of employment, so that a break of up to four weeks between contracts will not interrupt continuity. Currently continuous employment will be severed if the employee takes a break of a complete week ending with a Saturday.
- Legislation to streamline the employment status tests so they are the same for employment and tax purposes, and to avoid employers misclassifying employees/workers as self-employed.
- Increasing the penalty for an employer's aggravating conduct from £5,000 to £20,000.
- Abolishing the Swedish Derogation, which gives employers the ability to pay agency workers less than their own workers in certain circumstances
The government however agrees with the findings of the recent Taylor review which says that banning zero hours contracts completely would be likely to harm more people than it would help.
But Labour and unions argue that the reforms are not enough. The Trades Union Congress general secretary, Frances O’Grady, commented:
“The right to request guaranteed working hours is no right at all. Zero-hours contract workers will have no more leverage than Oliver Twist. Unless unions get the right to organise and bargain for workers in places like Uber and Amazon, too many working people will continue to be treated like disposable labour.”
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