Thursfields warning about government’s far-reaching employment shake up
The government’s shake up of working practices, particularly in the so-called “gig economy”, is not just about zero hours, sick pay and holiday entitlements, Thursfields Solicitors is warning.
The leading Midlands law firms says the practical impact of the Taylor Review will be much more far reaching.
James Monk, a senior associate in Thursfields’ employment team, said: “Last year an independent review, called the Taylor Review, was issued in relation to the gig economy and modern working practices.
“The Government has announced its response to the Taylor Review and claims that it will be acting on all but one of the 53 recommendations made by the Taylor Review as part of its plan to promote ‘Good Work’.
“The key proposals that are to be implemented by the Government can be broken down into three key areas,” he said.
Workers’ rights will be further protected by ensuring unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker. A new “naming and shaming” scheme will identify employers who fail to pay employment tribunal awards.
Fines for employers who show malice, spite or gross oversight will be quadrupled to £20,000, and the Government is considering increasing penalties for employers who have previously lost similar cases.
The Government is also acting to ensure workers are paid fairly through a series of measures, including providing all agency workers with a clear breakdown of who pays them and any costs or charges deducted from their wages.
Also under consideration is a proposal to ask the Low Pay Commission to consider the impact of higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero hour contracts, and a repeal of laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates.
The Government is also seeking to increase transparency in the business environment by defining “working time” for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or online, so they know when they should be being paid.
A task force is proposed to promote awareness and the take-up of the right to request flexible working introduced in 2014. There will also be a drive to ensure new and expectant mothers know their workplace rights, and to raise awareness among employers of their obligations.
And a new campaign will be launched to encourage more working parents to share childcare through Shared Parental Leave.
However, warned James Monk, the “devil is in the detail”.
“Until we see the detail of the changes in practice, it is difficult to judge the exact impact of these changes,” he said.
“Already both sides of the debate are lining up in opposition with the Trade Unions saying the announcement is a ‘baby step’ and what was needed was a ‘giant leap’.”
In contrast however, Stephen Martin, the Director General of the Institute of Directors, has commented that “this could be the biggest shake-up of employment law in generations” and it is therefore right “that the Government proceeds cautiously”.
Mr Monk added: “We will await further details to see just how this will impact organisations in practice, but businesses that are currently sitting down with their legal advisers to review issues such as their contracts and working practices, should do so in the light of these proposed changes.”
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Notes to Editors
Thursfields Solicitors is one of the region’s longest established and reputable law firms, with around 140 staff in eight offices across Worcestershire and the West Midlands. Thursfields Solicitors provides a full range of legal services to business and the private individual, including property, family, employment and commercial law as well as probate and litigation. The firm has offices in Worcester, Kidderminster, Halesowen, Sedgley, Stourport-on-Severn, Solihull and Birmingham.