Major shakeup of workers’ rights proposes protection for ‘flexible’ employees

cyber crime
Greg Clark

As part of the largest upgrade in workers’ rights in a generation, millions of flexible workers will benefit from new rights and extra protections if they lose out on work, under proposed government reforms.

Advancing its Good Work Plan, the government will consult on proposed new measures for flexible workers, including:

  • compensation for workers when shifts are cancelled at short notice
  • entitlement to a reasonable period of notice for their allocated shifts
  • additional protections for individuals who are penalised if they do not accept shifts last minute

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Innovative entrepreneurs and new business models have opened up a whole new world of working patterns and opportunities, providing people with freedom to decide when and where they work that best suits them.

“It’s vital that workers’ rights keep pace with these changes, reflect the modern working environment and tackle the small number of firms that do not treat their staff fairly.

“We are the first country in the world to address modern working practices and these protections will cement the UK’s status as a world-leader in workers’ rights.”

Low Pay Commission Chairman Bryan Sanderson said: “We are delighted to see the government taking forward our recommendation to consult on these measures.

“Last year we looked at the data on one-sided flexibility and talked to workers and businesses across the UK. Our report, published in December, found that shift cancellations and short notice of work schedules were significant problems, especially for low-paid workers.

“The proposed changes, part of a package of policies we suggested, have the potential to improve work and life for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Often used in service industries such as couriers and hospitality and in the retail sectors, flexible working allows people to fit their work around their personal lives, including caring responsibilities and studies.

Following the Matthew Taylor Review, which found that zero hours contracts work for the majority of those on them giving them the flexibility they seek but recommended that the Low Pay Commission should examine the issue of one-sided flexibility. Nearly 40% of UK workers say that their hours can vary from week to week, with about 1.7 million individuals feeling anxious that their working hours could change unexpectedly.

The government’s proposed reforms will allow flexible workers to retain their autonomy that suits them, while allowing businesses to continue using them to cope with peaks in demand.