Working people “will have been conned” if ministers renege on promise to bring forward the employment bill – warns union body
TUC head demands urgent assurances from ministers in wake of P&O scandal
Frances O'Grady says the government will “side with bad bosses” if fails to legislate new workplace protections
The TUC has today (Monday) demanded the government “come clean” over its plans for workers’ rights.
Reports over the weekend claim that ministers are going to drop the long-awaited employment bill from next month’s Queen’s Speech.
This would be the second year in succession that legislation to enhance workplace protections has been shelved – despite repeated government promises that an employment bill would be forthcoming.
Writing to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warned today:
“If the government ditches the employment bill it will be sending a green light to rogue employers to treat staff like disposable labour.
“After the scandalous events at P&O, which have exposed gaping holes in UK employment law, the need for new legislation has never been clearer or more urgent.
“There is no excuse for delay. If the government breaks its promise to enhance workers’ rights working people will have been conned and betrayed.
“It’s vital ministers come clean about their plans. In the wake of P&O the government can stand on the side of workers and legislate new protections. Or it can side with bad bosses and abandon its long overdue employment bill.
“But let’s be crystal clear – without new laws to protect people at work there is nothing stopping P&O type scandals from happening again in the future.
“And the use of exploitative practices like fire and rehire and zero-hours contracts will continue to soar.
“Tinkering around the edges with feeble statutory codes is not going to rein in unscrupulous employers. We need proper legislation for that.”
The union body highlighted how the government has given repeated assurances that it would legislate new workplace protections:
In Decemer 2019 the government said it would bring forward the employment bill to “protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU, making Britain the best place in the world to work.”
In December 2019 a spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted that the promises on workers' rights will be contained in a new employment bill.
In May 2021, business minister Paul Scully spoke of his and the Secretary of State’s “absolute commitment” to an employment bill.
In June 2021, minister Paul Scully reaffirmed the government’s commitment to “bring the Employment Bill through”.
In June 2021 the government promised it would ‘take action against big brands that turn a blind eye to labour abuses‘ in a press release that announced the establishment of a single enforcement agency.
In September 2021 the government promised to ‘tackle shameful tipping practices and ensure all tips go to workers’ - again through new legislation.
The TUC says urgent action is needed to tackle Britain’s “insecure work epidemic”.
The union body estimates that one in nine workers – or 3.6 million people – are in insecure work including more than 1 million on zero-hours contracts.
And separate TUC research has revealed that the size of the gig economy workforce in England and Wales has almost tripled in the past five years.
- The FT is tonight reporting that the employment bill will be dropped from the Queen’s Speech: https://www.ft.com/content/5d7d164b-71c0-47e9-ba3c-350d07317e89
- In June 2021, minister Paul Scully reaffirmed the government’s commitment to an employment bill. He said “we will be working throughout the next few months to make sure, when we have parliamentary time to bring the Employment Bill through and create the single employment body, that the guidance will be there and the prep work will have been done.
- In May 2021, minister Paul Scully spoke of his and the Secretary of State’s “absolute commitment” to an employment bill. He said “The Secretary of State and I believe that workers’ rights should be enhanced and protected, so we are absolutely committed to bringing forward an employment Bill that will help us to build back better and to protect vulnerable workers, delivering on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world in which to work and grow a business. While we are waiting for the employment Bill to come forward in parliamentary time, we will continue in that way”.
-In the notes to the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the government said it would bring forward the employment bill to:
Protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU, making Britain the best place in the world to work.
Promote fairness in the workplace, striking the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that workers deserve.
Strengthen workers’ ability to get redress for poor treatment by creating a new, single enforcement body.
Offer greater protections for workers by prioritising fairness in the workplace, and introducing better support for working families.
Build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy.
- In December 2019 a spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted that the promises on workers' rights will be contained in a new employment bill. He said: "The manifesto on which he won a majority made clear that that would be done in parallel to the Withdrawal Agreement and the issue will be dealt with in its own legislation.
“Once Brexit is done, we will continue to lead the way and set a high standard, building on existing employment law with measures which protect those in low paid work. This is on top of the largest upgrade to workers' rights in a generation that the Government is bringing forward.”
A senior government official said: "The Prime Minister won't be doing anything at all that downgrades workers' rights. He is going to be enhancing workers' rights. He will be doing nothing to diminish them."
- Daily Mirror - January 2021 - All the times Boris Johnson promised to protect workers' rights
-Over one million workers are now on zero-hours contracts, according to the ONS – which equates to a rise of 40,000 compared to the previous year.
- The size of the gig economy workforce in England and Wales has almost tripled in the past five years, according to TUC and University of Hertfordshire research
-One in nine workers – or 3.6 million – are in insecure work, according to TUC analysis
- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
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