April marks the start of the financial year. Looking ahead we thought we’d summarise some of the proposed changes impacting the recruitment sector?

1 – Clearer Statutory Definitions of Employment Status

Employment status is never clear cut. The committee have put forward that we need greater clarity of employment status (we’d all agree we need that!). The False Self Employment legislation (introduced in 2014) resulted in many agencies side-stepping paying self-employed workers to avoid the question. But with the off payroll working rules being extended to the Private sector from April 2020 many agencies will be scratching their head again when it comes to deciding employment status. We look forward to getting more clarity on these changes over the coming months but agencies need to expect increased cost in managing the policy change as well as ongoing administration of additional checks to ensure they protect both themselves and their clients.

2 – Worker by Default

Currently the onus is on the individual to prove they’re a ‘worker’ (usually by taking the company to court). Instead the committee that instead it should be the Company who has the burden to prove the worker is self-employed protecting vulnerable individuals who would now instead be assumed to be workers by default. Agencies will need to review their decision-making process but also the records they retain as evidence for their decision making.

3 – Non-guaranteed Hours

The committee agrees that the non-guaranteed hours (your contracted to 25 hours per week but might work 40 hours) does offer flexibility to both workers and employers but there is concern that the benefit can often be more for the Employer. They have recommended running a pilot scheme to try paying workers for non-contracted hours a pay premium on the National Minimum Wage. If such a pilot was successful, this could lead to complexity of

4 – Continuous Service

Certain employment rights are given to employees on a contract of employment (for example entitlement to one week’s notice of dismissal after one month’s service or the right to claim unfair dismissal after 2 years’ service). Continuous service is currently broken by any one week where the employee is not governed by a contract of employment simply when they are either not offered work or choose not to work. Casual workers can inadvertently restart the counter any week where they do not have a contract meaning they lose out on employment rights. The committee have suggested the break in service is extended for one week. For agencies this is likely to impact only internally staff but also those temporary contractors employed by Umbrella Companies.

5 – Employment Tribunals

In the UK class actions are only permitted in consumer protection cases. This means that although a group of claimants can bring a case against their employer for example on disputed wages, status or even working time each individual in the group must still go through the full legal process and if the group wins the result only impacts those individuals in the group (there is no obligation for the employer to apply the result to all other workers). As a result, it is felt employers are more like to have a ‘wait and see’ mentality when it comes to court cases. The committee want to encourage larger fines to discourage employers from abusing legislation and also to consider expanding the use of class actions.

6 – Flexibility and NMW

The Taylor Review acknowledged that a flexible labour force has benefits for both workers and business (plus us consumers too) but is concerned that workers are often burdened with all the risks of such flexibility. There is particular concern around so called plat form workers – those workers obtaining work when they are available through platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo. Suggestions for improvement from the Taylor Review are based on the current NWM legislation where workers are paid piece rates (workers are based on their output but companies but demonstrate that the average worker is paid an equivalent hourly rate of at least 120% of NMW). From our experience calculating pay on piece rates, although common in some sector such as farming, is a complicated way to pay workers based on the checks and evidence needed to ensure NMW compliance and could add increased admin burden to agencies especially when you consider multiple end clients working in different sectors).

 7 – Entitlement to a Written Statement of Employment Particulars

In order to allow workers to better identify if they are being treated unfairly at work it has been suggested that all workers should be provided a statement of working conditions within 7 days of the start date. (Current this is only available to employees and only within 2 months although there is currently little enforcement). For good businesses it is expected that confirmation of assignment details are already provided to agency workers so if these changes do get implemented it wouldn’t cause too much hassle. A focus on these changes may change details requested for Tendor agreements and allow compliant agencies an advantage to those not doing the right thing currently.

8 – Lowering the Information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) Threshold

The information and Consultation of Employees (ICE) Regulations 2004 offer workplaces with union representation a framework for consultation with employees on business decisions that affect them. Currently companies must have 50 plus employees and at least 10% of those employees (with a minimum of 15 employees) must support the implementation of ICE. As a result, ICE is not used that often. The committee have proposed that the thresholds are lowered and to include workers (not just employees) in the threshold criteria. Potentially this could change the dynamic between agency workers and the end client and give them a better voice to influence decisions that will impact them.

9 – Ending Swedish Derogation

From April 2020 the ability to use Swedish Derogation to negate the need to pay an agency worker the equivalent of a permanent employee will be removed. You can read full details on our blog.

With high employment rates, Brexit looming these changes come at a busy time for recruiters. Although many of the changes, if passed, will not impact until 2020 Recruiters need to do their research now to ensure they are prepared for the additional burden.
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