Economic Undertakings

Katy Wedderburn: Sign of the times – the future of the post-pandemic job market

The UK government’s Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee is carrying out a survey of the UK labor market ‘post-pandemic’. Part of its mission is to understand whether current labor law is fit for purpose or requires reform.

This is interesting because since the announcement of a Jobs Bill in 2019, no labor law reform was tabled in Parliament. The latest Queen’s Speech did not include a Jobs Bill at all, leaving previously planned measures such as the introduction of carer leave, flexible working from day one and the extension of dismissal rights to new parents in limbo.

The committee invites submissions in several areas, including the UK labor market post-Brexit; the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on recruitment; skills shortages; market growth; and the use of artificial intelligence and technology in the workplace.


The survey will look at opportunities to capitalize on the EU’s departure, to “differentiate EU and UK ‘standards’ in certain areas of rights and protections. Prior to Brexit, there was widespread asked whether there would be a dilution of certain protections based on EU law in the UK, such as maximum working time, entitlement to annual leave and breaks, equality and transfer protections A new Retained European Law Bill will grant new powers to the UK to amend, repeal or replace Retained European Law.

Dismissal and rehiring

Following the P&O Ferries debacle earlier in the year after it promised action to try to address the breach of the national minimum wage for workers and ship’s crew in UK ports, the inquiry asked what the proposed code of practice to prevent “fire and rehire tactics should include. A draft code for consultation is expected soon – in “summer 2022”.

Employment status

The survey will also look at working patterns in the UK and the growth of the gig economy versus the reduction in permanent employment. This includes determining whether the current definitions of “employee” and “worker” are fit for purpose. This is no small feat since a significant number of employment protections in UK law depend on an individual’s employment status as an employee or worker.

Flexibility and hybrid work

The survey will look at what employment rights can be improved, how to strike the right balance between the flexibility needed for the economy and the protection of workers and what can be done to improve the protection of those in low-wage jobs. paid and the gig economy. These are themes that have prevailed with the development of case law in the ‘gig economy’ and since the Taylor Report in 2018. The government planned from there to introduce new laws to clarify employment status testing, reflecting the reality of the modern economy. professional relationships.

After Taylor, a ban on the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts was introduced and it is now proposed to extend this ban to the lowest paid workers whose income is at or below the lower earnings limit (currently £123 per week, which is used to determine entitlement to certain work-related benefits). A proposed draft regulation was tabled in Parliament on July 12, 2022.

The committee will also consider whether the law needs to be updated to reflect the increase in working from home as a result of the pandemic, to accommodate the desire for increased flexibility and, in some jobs, hybrid working. This seems somewhat ironic since previous proposals to extend employees’ right to request flexible working today will not be implemented in the government’s legislative plan this year.

Finally, the impact of the aging of the population and how to help maintain the employability of older workers who wish to continue working will also be examined by the Committee.
We will remain attentive to the outcome of the investigation and how it shapes the future of labor law and industrial strategy.

Katy Wedderburn: Sign of the times – the future of the post-pandemic job market

Katy Wedderburn is a partner at MacRoberts LLP