U.K.: ‘Casual' Workers Gain Full Employment Rights

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By Ali Qassim

The employment rights and protections given full-time regular employees would be extended to temporary workers, workers on “zero-hour” contracts, and other “casual” employees under proposals released by the government Feb. 7 in response to a government-commissioned report prepared by Matthew Taylor, a former aide to Tony Blair (The Good Work Report: A Response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices).

“Some in work still do not have the income security they or their family want,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark, while “others can find themselves trapped in a cycle of lower-paid work.”

The proposal would guarantee to all workers:

  •  the right to holiday and sick pay entitlements from a worker’s first day of work;
  •  in the case of “zero-hour” workers, the right to request a more stable contract after 12 months with a hirer; and
  •  the right for hourly-paid staff to receive a payslip that clearly states the number of hours they are being paid for.

The government could also repeal rules that allow employment agencies to use an exemption known as the “Swedish derogation” to avoid paying temporary workers the same as the equivalent going rate in a client company. Temporary workers could also demand that agencies provide them with a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages.

Employers face greater punishments under these proposals, including the quadrupling of employment tribunal fines for employers showing malice, spite, or gross negligence to 20,000 pounds ($27,867). The penalties could go even higher for employers that have previously lost similar cases. The government also proposes to name and shame those employers that fail to pay fines, the report said.

Mixed Reaction

Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission, said that the introduction of payslips “will make these rights easier to both communicate and understand and therefore aid compliance.”

Commenting more widely, Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, which represents 5.6 million workers, cautioned that the proposals don’t go far enough to “stop that hire-and-fire culture of zero-hours contracts and sham self-employment.”

Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, questioned whether a growing demand for contracts “will mean more bureaucracy and therefore a greater burden.”

Bill Longe, the head of employer tax at accounting firm RSM agreed.

“These changes will inevitably result in increased costs and an increase in administrative burdens despite Government assurances to the contrary,” he said.

Neil Carberry, managing director for people and infrastructure at business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry, approved the increased penalties for noncompliance.

“Responsible businesses back strong enforcement against the small number of firms whose poor practices tarnish the reputation of the vast majority that are a force for good,” he said.

The government has opened several consultations on various aspects of the reform to allow interested parties to respond. Responses must be submitted by May 16.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Qassim in London at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

For More Information

The Good Work Report: A Response to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices is available here, the Taylor Review itself (Employment Practices in the Modern Economy) here, the consultation on agency workers here, the consultation on increasing transparency here, and the consultation on employment tribunal enforcement here.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.

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