The number of workers who lack access to key employment rights has nearly doubled in a decade to 1.5 million, according to a new TUC report published last week.

The report “Living on the Edge: The rise of job insecurity in modern Britain” sets out how, because of increasing insecurity at work, working people have fewer rights and protections at work. The TUC estimates that there are now 3.2 million workers (one in ten of the working population) who face significant insecurity at work.

Although it is difficult to quantify the number of those missing out on key employment rights because of the complexity of UK employment law, the TUC has worked out from labour market data that:

  • 1.5 million people are now at risk of missing out on family-friendly rights such as rights to maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, including the right to return to their job after taking time off
  • 1.7 million self-employed people lack access to these rights
  • 1.5 million people may have no right to an itemised pay slip making it more difficult to receive the correct pay; and may also be missing out on protection from unfair dismissal

The TUC argues that the government should act to ensure that everyone has decent rights and protection at work by:

  1. Making existing rights available to everyone in work not only those who qualify for “employee” status. This includes family friendly rights, protection from unfair dismissal and the right to redundancy pay.
  2. Guaranteeing that self-employment is a choice, not an imposition by the employer. Employers should not therefore be able to “opt-out” of their employment and tax responsibilities simply by labelling someone as self-employed.
  3. All workers, including those on low pay should be entitled to statutory sick pay and policymakers should look at extending other forms of support such as paternity pay.
  4. Abolishing tribunal fees so that workers can challenge bad employers in court
  5. Expanding union presence in workplaces. For instance, making it easier for all workers, including those in precarious jobs, to be able to talk to a union rep. Unions should therefore have a right to access workplaces or to meet with staff during working hours.

Gerard Airey of Thompsons added, "the report from the TUC highlights a major issue in employment law, which is working people being forced into self-employed terms by employers to evade affording them established employment rights.

It's time the government looked harder at these issues and perhaps created a financial penalty for employers who are found to be trying to evade giving employment rights through the guise of self-employment. This may make employers think twice about forcing status upon workers"

To read the full report, go to: