A report published this week by the TUC has found that millions of workers are trapped in low-paid, highly insecure jobs, where mistreatment is the norm and from which they have little prospect of escape.

The findings in the study - The Decent Jobs Deficit: the human cost of zero-hours working in the UK - suggest that women and young workers are most likely to find themselves in precarious work.

It also points out, however, that levels of insecurity are rising amongst higher skilled and better paid staff working in professional occupations including education, health care and the entertainment sector. University lecturers, radiographers and even airline pilots have all been affected by the employer drive towards more flexible and insecure forms of work.

The TUC is therefore calling on politicians to implement policies which:

  • deliver improved rights for zero-hours contract workers and others on casual contracts, such as:
    • the right to receive a written statement on the first day of employment setting out terms and conditions, including expected hours of work;
    • the right for all workers to receive notice before work is allocated or cancelled and to be paid for transport costs and lost earnings where a shift is cancelled;
    • the right to a fixed-hours contract reflecting their normal hours for workers who work regular hours; and
    • the right to a “flexibility allowance” for workers whose work is irregular or intermittent.
  • allow all workers to benefit from the same employment rights, including statutory redundancy pay, protection from unfair dismissal and family friendly rights;
  • ensure equal pay for agency workers by closing the loopholes in the Agency Worker Regulations which prevent agency workers on pay between assignment contracts qualifying for equal pay;
  • provide better enforcement of employment rights for low-paid, vulnerable workers such as abolishing employment tribunal fees and achieve better compliance with the national minimum wage; and
  • prioritise better access for all workers to union representation and collective bargaining.

The findings in the report were based on an analysis of the Office for National Statistics Quarterly Labour Force Survey, as well as findings from an online survey carried out by the TUC in April/May 2014. The survey received 3,244 responses, the vast majority of whom were members of trade unions. One in three was employed in temporary work, including agency work, zero-hours contracts or fixed term contracts.

Neil Todd at Thompsons, said: “The report is a depressing read and exposes the very poor employment rights afforded to so many workers across the country. It is clear that high levels of insecurity are felt by many across a range of professions. The proposals put forward by the TUC would address those concerns and no doubt increase and improve productivity as workers would be more likely to feel happier and more secure in their place of work.”

To read the report in full, visit the TUC website