New analysis by the TUC has found that one in nine workers (3.7 million workers in all) are in precarious jobs across every region in England, Wales and Scotland.
These include agency, casual and seasonal workers, those whose main job is on a zero-hours contract and self-employed workers who are paid less than the National Living Wage.
Not only are insecure workers poorly paid but because they often do not know what hours they will be working the following week, they cannot plan ahead in order to make arrangements for childcare.
Many also miss out on rights and protections that other workers take for granted such as:
- the right to return to the same job after maternity, adoption, paternity or shared parental leave
- the right to request flexible working
- the right to protection from unfair dismissal or statutory redundancy pay
Although insecurity is often associated with the “gig” economy, the TUC reports that it is widespread in jobs that have been around for years. For instance, figures show that insecure work extends to:
- one in five (20 per cent) of those classed as elementary roles which includes kitchen assistants, security guards and farm workers
- one in six (17 per cent) of those in caring and leisure roles
- one in five (19 per cent) of those working in skilled trades.
The TUC recommends that the government introduce:
- a ban on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment
- a decent floor of rights for all workers and the return of protection against unfair dismissal to millions of working people
- ensuring workers enjoy the same basic rights as employees, including redundancy pay and family-friendly rights
- new rights so that workers can be protected by a union in every workplace
- new rights for workers to bargain through unions for fair pay and conditions across industries, ending the race to the bottom.
Iain Birrell, of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: “Workplace rights and obligations need to strike a balance between the often competing interests of businesses and those whom they employ. An economist would point out that businesses’ customers are those same people and if they do not have economic security then they limit their spending and demands for goods and services falls. But the UK is currently run by political ideologues, not economists, and governments of differing political ideologies strike that balance differently. The current government, as well as thinking that ‘Brexit do or die’ is a jolly good thing, believes that ‘insecurity’ is just an unkind name for ‘flexibility’ and it regularly congratulates itself on creating a labour market with a ‘flexibility which gives individuals the opportunity to find work which suits them’. Its recent pronouncement that ‘whilst there is huge value in this flexibility, it cannot be at the expense of workers’ rights’ runs jarringly counter to its track record since David Cameron and Nick Clegg exchanged friendship bracelets in the Downing Street rose garden. The audience for the TUC’s report is therefore not currently domiciled in Number 10, and whilst Brenda from Bristol may dread it, only a general election may take us closer to blunting that inequality. However, if the predictions about post-Brexit economic damage prove accurate we can probably all expect a future with more ‘flexibility’ in it, not less.”
To read the study in full, go to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/research-analysis/reports/insecure-work