In October 2016, Prime Minister Theresa May commissioned Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, to look at how employment practices needed to change to keep pace with modern business models.
The review, published in July 2017, suggested the national strategy should be directed towards work for all, with fair rights, taxation and improved rights for the self-employed.
The government response, called the ‘Good Work Plan’, has proposed that millions of flexible workers receive new rights. This would include workers receiving day-one rights to sick and holiday pay, a right to a payslip for all workers including casual and zero-hour workers, and for all workers to be able to request more stable contracts.
It added that it would also take further action to ensure unpaid interns were not doing the job of a worker; a new naming scheme would be implemented for employers who failed to pay employment tribunal awards; and there would be a quadrupling of employment tribunal fines to £20,000 on employers showing malice, spite or gross oversight.
The prime minister said: “We recognise the world of work is changing and we have to make sure we have the right structures in place to reflect those changes, enhancing the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to do business.
“Our response to this report will mean tangible progress towards that goal as we build an economy that works for everyone.”
The government said it would be launching a detailed consultation examining options, including new legislation.
Helga Breen, partner and head of employment London at legal firm DWF, said the reform of the regulations on zero-hour contracts and agency workers proposed by the government were particularly “controversial”, since they might involve increased costs to businesses across a wide variety of sectors.
“With a reliance on zero-hour contracts and agency workers to supply a truly agile workforce, businesses – which are already suffering a big economy-induced headache – are bracing themselves for further hardship now the government intends to implement almost all of the suggestions made in the Taylor Review,” she said.
“The UK workforce is evolving and flexibility is now key for workers and businesses alike. But the exploitation of workers is wrong and hinders businesses’ ability to attract top talent at a time when the labour supply is facing a drought.”