By Lauren Howells.
The government has introduced what it claims to be the largest upgrade in workers’ rights in over a generation and which it says will ensure that workers can access “fair and decent work”.
The new legislation means that workers will have the right to a day one written statement of rights, which includes details about their eligibility for sick leave and pay, as well as other types of paid leave, including maternity and paternity leave.
Employment tribunal fines for employers quadrupled
It will also increase maximum employment tribunal fines from £5,000 to £20,000 for employers who are demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight.
However, the reforms stop short of banning the controversial zero-hour contracts. The review into Modern Working Practice by the former aide to Tony Blair, Matthew Taylor, on which these reforms were based, found that banning zero-hour contracts in their totality would “negatively impact more people than it helped”.
The government said that these reforms took forward 51 of the 53 recommendations made by Matthew Taylor.
Unite union said plans were “reluctant baby steps at best”
The leader of Unite union, Len McCluskey, described the government’s plans as “reluctant baby steps at best”.
“People on zero hour contracts and workers in the insecure economy need much more than a weak right to request a contract and more predictable hours.”
Labour said the government had failed to support workers and the legislation did nothing to tackle the increasing number of people on “precarious zero hours contracts”.
The legislation will also close a loophole which allowed agency workers to be paid less than their permanent counterparts.
In addition, it will extend the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks, which will ensure that people in “seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to”.
Business Secretary Greg Clark, who unveiled the reforms, said:
“Today’s largest upgrade in workers’ rights in over a generation is a key part of building a labour market that continues to reward people for hard work, that celebrates good employers and is boosting productivity and earning potential across the UK.”
Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary Frances O’Grady described the scrapping of the agency worker loophole as a “victory for union campaigning”.
TUC warned new legislation wouldn’t shift balance of power in gig economy
However, she said that the reforms would not shift the balance of power in the gig economy and that unless unions got the right to organise and bargain for workers in companies like Amazon and Uber, “too many working people will continue to be treated like disposable labour”.
“The right to request guaranteed working hours is no right all. Zero-hours contract workers will have no more leverage than Oliver Twist”.
The government claims that its reforms will make the UK the first country in the world to address the opportunities and challenges of the gig economy and the changing world of work, and its impact on a modern economy.