The Good Work Plan – here’s what you need to know
The government has outlined its plan to future-proof the UK’s world-leading labour market. Here’s what you need to know.
At the very end of last year – amid the chaos around Brexit – the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark presented a paper to parliament that will impact on recruiters and how they work: the government’s Good Work Plan. This work puts forward a vision for the future of the UK labour market, which “rewards people for hard work, that celebrates good employers and that is ambitious about boosting productivity and earning potential in the UK”.
In it, the government commits to a wide range of policy and legislative changes to ensure that workers access fair and decent work, that both employers and workers have the clarity they need to understand their employment relationships, and that the enforcement system is fair and fit for purpose.
Why is this happening now?
The UK labour market is undergoing huge and rapid changes – including rise of the gig economy. Coupled with this employees are often prioritising different aspects of work such as flexibility to make work fit with their lives. The government wants to embrace the benefits of these changes and recognises the strength of the UK’s flexible workforce, whilst at the same time keeping a keen eye on workers’ rights. That’s been highlighted in the Prime Minister’s commitment to not just maintain workers’ rights when the UK leaves the EU but enhance them.
These dynamics led to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, and four further consultations into employment status, increasing transparency, agency workers and enforcement. The Good Work Plan brings together all this work.
The principles of Good Work
Whilst Matthew Taylor recognised the value of flexible working, he was critical of “one-sided flexibility” in the labour market, where some businesses have transferred too much business risk to the individual, sometimes at the detriment of their financial security and personal well-being.
Good, quality work means different things to different people. Some value flexibility, for others its higher pay, or the opportunity to progress. To reflect this, the government’s approach follows five principles:
- Satisfaction – by providing better jobs, employers will be better able to attract and retain the talent they need; by boosting transparency around job quality, individuals can make better choices about work that suits their needs.
- Fair pay – the government has an aspiration to end low pay. It is also targeting policy around tips and other discretionary payments for service. And of particular interest to recruiters, it is legislating to improve transparency around payment, as well as changes to holiday pay reference periods.
- Participation and progression – the government wants to ensure everyone has the basic skills they need to enter the labour market in the first place, but people also need to have a realistic scope for development and fulfilment.
- Well-being, safety and security – happy and engaged employees experience less workplace stress and are more productive. The Good Work Plan emphasises the importance of mental health initiatives.
- Voice and autonomy – the importance of employee engagement once again comes to the fore. The government is investing in improving the tribunal system (and raising fines for any aggravated breaches). It is also set to make the Information and Consultation regulations more accessible. These provide a mechanism for views to be taken into account on major workforce reforms, such as restructuring.
Recruiters have a key role in delivering the Good Work Plan, and helping employers play their part.
The REC has been engaging with the government from the outset to ensure that the recruitment industry’s voice has been heard. We supported many of the principles and recommendations in the review, particularly the emphasis on transparency. Now, as legislation is introduced, we are working to ensure members receive clear guidance of how to put legislation into action.