Government consult on rights of flexible workers

The government has opened a consultation on proposed new measures for flexible workers which will give them more rights as well as compensation if their shifts are cancelled at a short notice.

This will advance the government’s Good Work Plan, “the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation.” The Good Work Plan was announced in December 2018 and formed the Government’s response to Matthew Taylor’s independent Taylor Review of modern working practices (2017).

The new measures the Government will consult on for flexible workers will include:

  • compensation for workers when shifts are cancelled at short notice
  • entitlement to a reasonable period of notice for their allocated shifts
  • additional protections for individuals who are penalised if they do not accept shifts last minute


Mr Taylor’s review found that zero hours contracts work for the majority of these workers as it gives them the flexibility they need, however, he said that the Low Pay Commission should look in to the issue of one-sided flexibility.

In December 2018 the Low Pay Commission researched this issue and found that parts of the labour market where employers are misusing flexible working arrangements leading to unpredictability in working hours, income insecurity and a reluctance among workers to assert basic employment rights.

The Low Pay Commission also found that 1.7 million flexible workers feel “anxious” that their working hours can change unexpectedly. As well as under half (40 per cent) saying their hours “tend to vary from week to week”.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy for the CIPD said:

If we want to create fairer, more inclusive workplaces we must address one-sided flexibility that benefits businesses but puts individuals at a disadvantage. Zero hours contracts can offer people flexibility they need but it’s been far too easy for some employers to cancel shifts with very little or no short notice. Workers not only lose out on pay but also suffer unnecessary travel costs and disruption. It’s absolutely right to make companies pay reasonable compensation if this happens and we welcome this, and other measures proposed to protect workers on variable hours.

The introduction of a right to switch to a more predictable work pattern should give workers more choice over their working arrangements. However, circumstances in which employers can refuse this will need to be clear.  A right to reasonable notice of work schedules is also a proposal that will be welcomed by atypical workers and good employers as long as there is flexibility over what is ‘reasonable’ given the nature of the work.

Greg Clarke, business secretary said:

Innovative entrepreneurs and new business models have opened up a whole new world of working patterns and opportunities, providing people with freedom to decide when and where they work that best suits them.

It’s vital that workers’ rights keep pace with these changes, reflect the modern working environment and tackle the small number of firms that do not treat their staff fairly.

We are the first country in the world to address modern working practices and these protections will cement the UK’s status as a world-leader in workers’ rights.

Bryan Sanderson, chair of the Low Pay Commission said:

We are delighted to see the government taking forward our recommendation to consult on these measures.

Last year we looked at the data on one-sided flexibility and talked to workers and businesses across the UK. Our report, published in December, found that shift cancellations and short notice of work schedules were significant problems, especially for low-paid workers.

The proposed changes, part of a package of policies we suggested, have the potential to improve work and life for hundreds of thousands of people.

These new proposals follow the announcement that the government is consulting on whether or not to create single labour market enforcement body which will have the power to make sure minimum wage and holiday payments are offered to employees.

The government is inviting views on flexible working and the consultation will be open for 12 weeks.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.