The government has published the pithily named "Good Work Plan", its latest follow-up to the Taylor Review, published in July 2017. The Plan sets out a number of proposals for UK labour market reform, which expand on its initial response to the Taylor Review in February 2018. It does not present draft legislation, so we would expect that it will be some time before we see any of the more complex proposals implemented into law. The more concrete amendments put forward in the Plan are eclectic. Over the next few days, we will be posting updates honing in on a few areas covered under the Plan, beginning with proposals in relation to agency workers today, and moving on to cover employment status and atypical working, and changes aimed at enhancing access to existing employment rights and strengthening enforcement.
Perhaps the most tangible proposal in the Plan is the repeal of the so-called "Swedish Derogation". As a general rule, agency workers must not receive less favourable treatment than their employed counterparts, including in relation to pay. Under the Swedish Derogation, employment agencies can opt out of the equal pay rules, provided that workers are engaged under an overarching contract which provides for pay between assignments.
Other changes that will affect employment agencies include a new requirement for employment businesses to provide workers with a "Key Facts Page", to set out the basic terms of the relationship, and the expansion of the remit of the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate to investigate complaints involving the use of umbrella companies.
While these changes are being celebrated as a significant reform, their impact remains to be seen. The repeal of the Swedish Derogation, trumpeted as a major step forward in the protection of agency workers' rights, will only affect workers working on longer term assignments: equal pay rules apply only to workers who have worked for a client for a minimum of 12 weeks. That being said, while this reform may prove largely cosmetic, strengthening of enforcement in an area that has historically seen the exploitation of vulnerable workers will be welcomed by many.
Co-Authored by Hannah Disselbeck