Research published by the TUC last week found that the number of people in insecure work has gone up by more than a quarter over the past five years.

It estimates that over three million people now work in insecure jobs, up from 2.4 million in 2011, representing one in 10 workers in the UK. The findings also show that people in unionised workplaces are twice as likely to be in secure jobs – 15 per cent of workers in unionised workplaces are in insecure work, compared with 30 per cent for non-unionised.

The increase is being driven mainly by traditional industries, rather than newer tech sectors. So for instance:

  • Restaurant and pub waiters make up one fifth of the increase. The number in insecure work in this sector has more than doubled since 2011, rising by 146,000 (+128 per cent). One in four waiting staff (259,000) are now stuck in insecure work.
  • Education workers account for over one tenth of the increase. The number in insecure work in this sector has risen by 82,000 since 2011 (+42 per cent), with one in 10 working in education now facing insecurity.
  • Social care accounts for a tenth of the increase in precarious working. The number of care home workers facing insecurity has risen by 66,000 (+133 per cent) since 2011, with more than one in 10 now in insecure jobs.

People in insecure jobs are left in the position where their wages can fluctuate without warning; they find it hard to get their basic employment rights respected; they miss out on key protections like sick pay; and they are at the mercy of bosses who can withdraw their hours or even take them off the job with no notice.

The TUC is publishing a league table of industries where workers are most likely to face insecurity. This includes:

  • Arts and entertainment (where 2 in 3 are insecure)
  • Domestic workers (where 2 in 5 face insecurity)
  • Transport services such as freight (where 1 in 3 have insecure jobs)
  • Clothes manufacturing (where 1 in 4 are in precarious work)

The study, commissioned by the TUC from the Learning and Work Institute, defines insecure work as seasonal, casual, temporary or agency work, those on zero-hours contracts, or the self-employed in low paid sectors such as admin and secretarial, caring and leisure work, customer service, process plant and machine operatives, elementary occupations, and artistic and design occupations (in associate professionals).

Jo Seery, of Thompsons solicitors, said “It is unacceptable in a modern economy that workers continue to be exploited and denied their employment rights. Employers who avoid giving workers their basic entitlements such as to the national minimum wage and holiday pay are increasingly being challenged in the courts as the recent decisions against Uber, Citylink and Pimlico Plumbers show.

It’s time the Government used its existing powers under the Employment Relations Act 1999 to make good Theresa May’s promise to introduce new laws which are in the interests of the many not the mighty and provide full employment rights apply to all workers.”

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