Gig economy workers, agency employees and zero-hour contract workers are to be better protected by new workplace reforms implemented by the government this week. However, Lorna Davidson, CEO of short-term recruitment specialist RedWigWam, says that employers need to do more. Here she comments on the reforms:
“Under the new legislation, staff would have to be told their rights from their first day in a job, including eligibility for paid and sick leave. It’s a response, and quite rightly too, after the proliferation of zero-hour contracts. The Archbishop of Canterbury called them “the reincarnation of an ancient evil”. But also, rightly in my view, they didn’t go as far as banning zero-hour contracts. Why? Both the employer and employee benefit from flexible working after all.
“Recent research shows that of the 7 million people who are currently active in the temporary work market, 5 million of those choose to be there.
“Flexibility and versatility should not be confused with a lowering of standards; nor should it absolve employers of their responsibility towards treating workers fairly and ethically.
“When we talk about employment and the economy, productivity is the yardstick by which we measure ourselves. I’d like to point out that there is no greater driver of productivity than a motivated and incentivised workforce.
“A happy, driven workforce is always going to deliver a much better service than one being paid below minimum wage, without NI contributions and with no hope of taking a holiday. Treating staff mean in business certainly does not keep them keen. In fact, it leads to corner cutting, lower productivity and a poor end product.
“As the Taylor report states, the nature of employment is evolving. Unless quality of employment keeps pace with these developments, the UK may quickly lose its place in the top 5 most efficient labour markets in the world.
“At RedWigWam we have a large database of workers who are ready to get started. If hirers are prepared to work with us to install a degree of flexibility into their roles, we’re confident we’ll be able to fill them.
“We offer a practical and affordable solution to any industry. Whether a hirer needs a few hours here and there, or something more long term, we can help them fill that job.
“We have more than 72,000 workers looking for flexible work. They come from a variety of backgrounds, including students, parents and retirees – and all have one thing in common: they want to earn extra money through jobs that fit in with their lives.”
The reforms are based on the findings of a review into modern working practices led by Matthew Taylor, a former aide to ex-PM Tony Blair and chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts.
Ministers say the new legislation will close a loophole that had allowed agency staff to be paid less than permanent employees, ensure firms will have to provide a ‘statement of rights’ on the first day of a person’s employment, setting out what paid leave they are entitled to, including for illness, maternity and paternity leave.
The legislation will also increase the maximum fine employers face at a tribunal from £5,000 to £20,000, if they are found to have demonstrated “malice, spite or gross oversight and ensure that companies will have to calculate holiday pay based on 52 weeks, as opposed to 12 weeks, so people in “seasonal or atypical roles get the paid time off they are entitled to”.