Insecure workers need change – ministers must up their game

Published date
07 Feb 2018
The situation facing insecure workers in this country is still incredibly grim.

We have mums who can’t plan their childcare or budget for food because of lack of guaranteed hours. Workers with long-term illnesses get fined when they take time out for doctors’ visits. And young workers, who have never known regular employment, are so used to exploitation that they don’t expect any better.

These groups need immediate action, a giant leap forward in the way we approach modern work. But instead, with its response to the Taylor Review, the government has taken a baby step.  

The proposals outlined today won’t stop that hire-and-fire culture of zero-hours contracts and sham self-employment. And they’ll still leave 1.8 million people in insecure jobs excluded from key workplace protections. They won’t put an end to zero-hours contracts, which leave workers guessing as to whether they’ll be able to pay their bills from one week to the next.

We need to accelerate the pace of change on insecure work. Which means that ministers must up their game.

For starters, they can get serious about equal pay for agency workers, ditching the Undercutters’ Charter that currently allows bad bosses to pay them less than permanent staff for the same work. Today, government has announced a consultation on the loophole, known as the Swedish Derogation. As far as we’re concerned there’s no question but that it should be closed.

On top of that, we want to see a crackdown on bogus self-employment that denies workers in companies like Deliveroo their rights. Government can and should take responsibility for ensuring that workers enjoy the same floor of rights as employees, including redundancy pay and family-friendly rights.

But rights are only valuable if they can be meaningfully enforced. So we want trade unions to have access to all workplaces, to support insecure workers most in need of representation. And we want increased resources and powers for enforcement, ensuring that dodgy employers have nowhere to hide.

Exploited workers can’t wait any longer. Recent TUC research shows that insecure workers are five times more likely to drop out of the labour market than permanent staff. They’re less satisfied and more anxious.

Over half (51%) have had their hours cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice and 54% say they have difficulty managing their expenses.

The balance of power needs to change in modern workplaces. And even with today’s recommendations, the government isn’t doing nearly enough to make that happen.