Government proposes new zero hour contract legislation

17 December 2018
What was claimed

New legislation has been introduced to change laws on workplace rights.

Our verdict

The government has made a statement to parliament saying they intend to introduce new laws to change workers’ rights. The exact wording of the proposed law hasn’t been published yet.

What was claimed

New laws on workplace rights have come into effect.

Our verdict

Incorrect. The government has made a statement to parliament saying they intend to introduce new laws to change workers’ rights. But these new rights haven’t been passed as law and so aren’t in effect.

“Workers on zero-hour contracts, agency employees or "gig economy" workers are to be better protected by a package of workplace reforms, the government says.

“Under new legislation to be introduced on Monday, staff would have to be told details of their rights from their first day in a job, including eligibility for paid and sick leave.”

BBC News, 17 December 2018


“The government has introduced what it claims to be the biggest package of workplace reforms for 20 years after concerns that ministers have failed to appeal to voters who are “just about managing”.

“Legislation that comes into effect on Monday will increase fines for employers who have deliberately victimised their staff, and give workers details of their rights from the first day in their job.”

Guardian, 17 December 2018 

Today, the BBC and the Guardian have both reported on new legislation on workplace reform, but depending on which media outlet you read the government has either just introduced this legislation today or the legislation is coming into effect today. 

So what has happened?

The government has said that today it will be introducing draft legislation  on workers’ rights, including changes to the legal protections for workers on zero-hour contracts. 

Business secretary Greg Clark made a written statement to parliament saying:  “Today, we have also taken the important first step in implementing the Good Work Plan, bringing forward new legislation to provide further rights to workers and ban unfair practices.”

But it’s not correct to say, as the Guardian did, that legislation is coming into effect today. The BBC said more correctly that government is introducing legislation to parliament, but introducing it is not a guarantee it will eventually come into effect.

Any new legislation needs to be debated by both MPs and Lords, reviewed by committees and passed by parliament before it becomes law and takes effect.

What the government is technically doing today is telling parliament it intends to legislate to change some workers’ rights. So far as we’ve been able to determine the draft legal texts haven’t yet been published or presented to parliament.

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We got in touch to request a correction regarding a claim made in The Guardian.

They did not respond.

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