The TUC has produced a report calling on the government to introduce measures to improve conditions at work faced by the UK’s most insecure workers.
The report, entitled “Insecure work: why decent work needs to be at the heart of the UK’s recovery from coronavirus” argues that measures should be introduced into the forthcoming Employment Bill which was announced in the Queen’s Speech in late 2019 to avoid a return to insecure work for 3.6 million workers.
Analysis by the TUC found that those in occupations such as caring and leisure were particularly likely to be in insecure work including working on zero-hours contracts, in agency, casual and seasonal work or among low-paid self-employed staff who earn less than the minimum wage.
Pay rates are significantly lower for many insecure workers, with the typical worker on a zero-hours contract on an hourly rate a third lower than the average employee. Insecurity can also have major health and safety effects with low-paid workers on insecure contracts forced to go to work during the pandemic without the protective kit they felt they needed.
Although roles which had long been underpaid such as delivery drivers, shopworkers, carers, nurses and school staff were recognised as crucial to the functioning of the UK during lockdown, many zero hours contract workers in hotels, pubs and cafes saw their work dry up overnight.
In order to provide greater security for workers in all sectors, the TUC is calling on the government to ensure:
- the effective abolition of zero-hours contracts through a right to request a regular hours contract, decent notice of shifts and compensation for cancelled shifts;
- penalties for employers who mislead people about their employment status and protections for the genuinely self-employed;
- workers to have the right to challenge their parent employer over minimum wage, sick pay and holiday pay abuses; and
- genuine two-way flexibility by giving workers a default right to work flexibly from the first day in the job, and all jobs to be advertised as flexible.
So that workers can enforce their rights, the TUC is also calling on the government to recognise the positive role that unions have played during the coronavirus pandemic, a point reinforced by a report on injury prevention at work by the think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).