Business Update:Written statement - HCWS1788

WS
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Made on: 22 July 2019
Made by: Kelly Tolhurst (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility)
Commons

Business Update

The Good Work Plan sets out the Government’s vision for the future of the UK labour market and how we will implement the Taylor Review recommendations. It forms an integral part of the modern Industrial Strategy and this Government’s long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK and to develop better jobs for all. We are now delivering the next phase of the Good Work Plan.

Flexibility has been a key factor behind the success of our labour market, but we are aware there are a small minority of employers who transfer too much risk to the individual, sometimes to the detriment of their financial security and personal wellbeing. The Taylor Review termed this ‘one-sided flexibility’. The Low Pay Commission found that this was particularly relevant for low paid, vulnerable workers and has made recommendations to Government. We are committed to tackling the problem and on 19 July we launched a consultation with proposals to:

  • provide a right to reasonable notice of working hours – with the aim to give workers more certainty about their shifts and work patterns so they can have more control over their working lives.
  • provide workers with compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice – The Low Pay Commission found that the practice of cancelling shifts at the last minute, sometimes on arrival at work or partway through a shift was not uncommon.

Earlier this year, the Government also consulted on measures to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses in cases of sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. This followed unacceptable cases of their misuse as evidenced in the media, inquiries by the Women and Equalities Select Committee and individuals’ responses to our consultation. These cases highlighted the seriousness of abuse that has taken place and the impact this has had on the lives of individuals.

We have now published the Government Response and will be legislating on the proposals we consulted on, and in some cases going even further. For example, for the first time, no provision in an employment contract will be able to prevent someone from disclosing information to the police or to regulated health and care and legal professionals. The proposals will increase clarity on the limitations of confidentiality clauses, increase protections for vulnerable individuals and ensure employers use confidentiality clauses appropriately.

The Government also recently consulted on proposals to extend redundancy protections for pregnant women and new mothers returning to work. We have now published the Government Response to this consultation.

Any form of discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is unacceptable and unlawful. Despite this, evidence from the Women and Equalities Select Committee, amongst others, suggests that new mothers are still being unfairly forced out of work. We are therefore taking action and are committing to extending the redundancy protection period that currently exists for pregnant women for a further six months once a new mother has returned to work. The Government response also looks at how we can increase awareness amongst pregnant women and new mothers of their maternity rights. As part of this the Government will establish a taskforce which will make recommendations on what improvements can be made to the information available to employers and families.

The reforms we have announced are the next important step in delivering on the Good Work Plan, ensuring we have a labour market that is fit for purpose. We recognise that the world of work is changing and are delivering the necessary reforms to ensure the UK labour market can adapt effectively, and support the needs of both workers and employers.

Copies of the referenced consultations and Government responses will be placed in the Libraries of the House and will be available electronically on the GOV.UK website.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS1751

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