Your guide to the Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill

Your guide to the Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill

The draft of a proposed law putting forward fundamental changes to employment law by introducing protections for workers on zero-hours contracts and equalising the statuses and rights of workers and employees, has had its second reading in the House of Commons on 4 October 2019.

What would the Bill change?

Definition of Workers and Employees

As the Bill provides for the exact same definition of worker as it does employee, if enacted, the Bill would mean there would no longer be a distinction between workers and employees in law. Workers would have the same ‘extra’ employment rights to which employees are currently entitled. These include:

  • statutory sick pay
  • statutory maternity/paternity/adoption/shared parental pay
  • minimum notice periods on termination of employment
  • protection against unfair dismissal
  • statutory redundancy pay

Zero-Hours Contracts

The Bill seeks to address and amend the law on zero-hours contracts. The Bill states that workers are entitled to be provided with reasonable notice of shifts and reasonable notice of cancellation of shifts which have been previously agreed and accepted by the worker.

Under the Bill, reasonable period of notice is considered to be not less than seven days. Where the employer fails to give the required shift notice and the worker accepts work, the employer must pay the worker at 200% of the rate they would normally paid. Where the employer fails to give the required cancellation notice, a hefty penalty would be imposed. The employer would be required to pay for the period of employment at 200% of their normal rate regardless that no work has been done. The employer must further compensate for any monetary losses incurred by the worker as a result of the cancellation.

The Bill provides a right for workers to be provided with fixed and regular hours and a notice of such hours before the commencement of employment. Employers can request additional hours where an employee has agreed such a request can be made, but these hours cannot exceed 10% of the initial hours and must be paid at a 200% rate.

Agency Workers

The Bill provides further rights for agency workers. An agency worker will be entitled to bring proceedings for the recovering of unpaid wages against the third-party end-user of their services, as well as their direct employer. The Bill defines wages to specifically include any bonus, commission, sick pay, holiday pay, maternity pay, and redundancy pay.

What is the future of the Bill?

While the Government has acknowledged the need for further clarity in the law following the recent Taylor report on the employment ‘gig’ economy, the Bill would extend this significantly. The Bill still has a way to go before it is enacted. It will need to survive to further review and reading in the House of Commons as well as an equivalent process in the House of Lords before it becomes law.

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