The government has announced new measures to improve workers’ rights in the UK, which should have a positive impact on the construction industry. 

The new legislation has been prompted by a review commissioned by the government in July 2017, undertaken by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive at the Royal Society of the Arts (RSA).  Known as ‘Good Work: the Taylor review for good modern working practices’ was formed to examine the ‘gig economy.’

Overall, only two of the 53 recommendations in Matthew Taylor’s report were rejected by the government, crucially not scrapping zero-hours contracts.  Key new measures, will include workers being provided with a first day statement of rights, which will cover eligibility for pay, sick leave, holiday and parental leave.

New measures to boost employees

The holiday pay reference period will be extended from 12 to 52 weeks to try to ensure seasonal workers are paid for the time off they are entitled to.  The new measures will see the creation of new powers to impose penalties for employers who breach employment agency legislation like non-payment of wages.

A new single labour market enforcement body will be set up with the aim of ensuring employment rights are enforced correctly. Employers will face a quadruple increase from £5,000 to £20,000, when an employment tribunal deems they have shown malice, spite or gross oversight.

The director of Labour Market Enforcement Sir David Metcalf’s review of the labour market has also drawn a positive response from the government, particularly looking at increasing protection for vulnerable workers, which includes those involved in the building and construction sectors. Holiday pay for this group of workers will now be enforced through earlier legislation.

Moves to ease Brexit fears for industry

With Brexit very much affecting the construction industry, the government’s decision to launch a consultation regarding Sir David’s recommendations on non-compliance in supply chains with be on the sector’s radar.  Building bosses are acutely aware of the need to train, retain and nurture their workforce and this latest set of measures will be welcomed within the construction industry as a step toward offering better protection and reward for its workers.

The government commented that it recognised from the review and consultations over it, that agency staff did not have sufficient protection and in some cases, workers were being burdened by all the risk. As a result the contracts have been banned by the government.

The legal loophole referred to as ‘Swedish derogation’ that allowed workers to sign pay-between-assignment contracts, allowing them to become employees of agencies rather than agency workers will end.

This means that certain businesses will no longer be permitted to pay agency workers less than permanent employees. The government is involved in consultation to avoid the possibility of penalising employers when setting national minimum wage rules on salaried hours work and salary sacrifice schemes.