On Monday, the UK government announced plans for the biggest package of workplace reforms in more than 20 years. Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and ndustrial strategy, pledged to advance 51 of the 53 recommendations made by Matthew Taylor in his June 2017 “Good Work” report about modern working practices.

“ … The world of work is changing, bringing new opportunities for innovative businesses and new business models to flourish, creating jobs across the country and boosting our economy,” Clark said. “With new opportunity also comes new challenges. … 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.”

Among the planned reforms are:

  • A repeal of the Swedish derogation, which provides an exemption from equal pay for agency workers.
  • Expanding the written statement of rights workers receive on day one to include details on rights such as eligibility for sick leave and pay and details of other types of paid leave, such as maternity and paternity leave.
  • An increase in the maximum employment tribunal fines to £20,000 from £5,000 for employers that are demonstrated to have shown malice, spite or gross oversight.
  • An extension of the holiday pay reference period to 52 weeks’ work from 12, ensuring those in seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to.
  • Lowering of the threshold required for a request to set up Information and Consultation arrangements to 2% from 10% of all employees.

The government is also committing to improving the clarity of the employment status tests to reflect the reality of modern working relationships.

Swedish Derogation. The so-called Swedish Derogation is a provision which was included in the Agency Workers Directive 2008 at the request of the Swedish government. It permitted EU member states to provide employers with an exemption from agency workers’ right to receive the same pay as if they were directly employed by the hirer, provided the workers are given an indefinite employment contract that could not be terminated unless the worker had received 50% of their normal pay between assignments for at least four weeks.

“The Taylor review set out how valuable the UK’s flexible approach to work is for workers as well as employers, and that is reflected in today’s government response,” said Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. “Recruiters across the country will welcome the acknowledgement that temporary and agency work is a key part of a vibrant jobs market that delivers opportunity.  Making sure workers have more knowledge of their rights at work — and greater ability to ensure flexibility works for them — is sensible.”