The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a consultation on workplace protections, aiming to tackle the issues identified in its Good work plan report, published in December 2018, including the introduction of a single labour market enforcement body.
The consultation, which launched on Tuesday 16 July 2019 and will run for 12 weeks, will discuss the next steps for workplace protections in order to advance the targets laid out in the Good work plan, the government’s response to the independent Good work: The Taylor review of modern working practices report, conducted in July 2017 by Matthew Taylor, chief executive officer at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
The consultation proposes creating a single labour market enforcement body to sanction the payment of the minimum wage, holiday pay, labour exploitation and modern slavery, as well as safeguard agency staff. Forming part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, it will further consider whether this body should have powers to address workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying.
The introduction of an enforcement body would aim to better support organisations in complying with the law as well as create a single brand that is easily identifiable for individuals looking for help.
Business secretary Greg Clark (pictured) has confirmed that Matthew Taylor has been appointed as the interim director of labour market enforcement.
Clark said: “We have a labour market that we can be proud of with more people in work than ever before. But, it’s right that hardworking people see their rights upgraded and are protected from exploitative practices, [while] ensuring we create a level playing field for the vast majority of businesses [that] comply with employment laws.
“A new single labour market enforcement body will bring together our different enforcement partners, putting all our expertise in one dedicated place, better protecting workers and enforcing their rights now and into the future.”
On Friday 19 July 2019, the BEIS and Low Pay Commission (LPC) announced a further consultation in support of the Good work plan, focusing on protecting flexible workers. This separate consultation will consider new measures in support of flexible working patterns, such as compensation when shifts are cancelled at short notice, an entitlement to a reasonable period of notice for allocated shifts and additional protections for individuals who are penalised if they do not accept shifts at the last minute.
These measures are in response to findings from The Taylor review, which stated that although zero-hour contracts provide the flexibility that many individuals seek, one-sided flexibility is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Bryan Sanderson, chair at the LPC, added: “Last year, we looked at the data on one-sided flexibility and talked to workers and businesses across the UK. Our report, published in December, found that shift cancellations and short notice of work schedules were significant problems, especially for low-paid [staff].
“The proposed changes, part of a package of policies we suggested, have the potential to improve work and life for hundreds of thousands of people.”
Clark said: “It’s vital that workers’ rights keep pace with these changes, reflect the modern working environment and tackle the small number of firms that do not treat their staff fairly. We are the first country in the world to address modern working practices and these protections will cement the UK’s status as a world-leader in workers’ rights.”
Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “If we want to create fairer, more inclusive workplaces we must address one-sided flexibility that benefits businesses but puts individuals at a disadvantage. Zero-hours contracts can offer people flexibility they need, but it’s been far too easy for some employers to cancel shifts with very little or no short notice. Workers not only lose out on pay but also suffer unnecessary travel costs and disruption. It’s absolutely right to make companies pay reasonable compensation if this happens and we welcome this, and other measures proposed to protect workers on variable hours.
“A right to reasonable notice of work schedules is also a proposal that will be welcomed by atypical workers and good employers as long as there is flexibility over what is ‘reasonable’ given the nature of the work.
“These measures will need to be delivered alongside better support for businesses, and small [employers] in particular. Smaller businesses can struggle to have the knowledge, resources and capacity to effectively manage their people, which can lead them to unintentionally fall foul of employment legislation. The provision of better support and resources for smaller employers, to help them improve their people management practices, should be part of a modern and progressive enforcement system.”