For many UK employees, insecurity will not be a brand new drawback, however one which the pandemic has each uncovered and deepened. The weak point of employment rights and the imbalance of energy between employees and managers has gone unaddressed for too lengthy. All through the pandemic, the devastating penalties of unsafe working situations, monetary insecurity and the shortage of a robust employee voice have made the necessity for pressing change clear.
But the federal government has proven no intention of creating this modification. It has ditched its long-promised employment invoice. Over the previous 16 months, a scarcity of readability about secure working practices and weak enforcement of well being and security legal guidelines have endangered employees on the frontline and resulted in 1000’s of avoidable deaths.
Tens of millions of employees have had no entry to statutory sick pay, each worsening the influence of the pandemic and exacerbating monetary insecurity. In-work poverty is the best it has been this century, with one in six working households on the poverty line. Roughly 3.6 million individuals are in insecure work, which means they don’t know when they are going to work or how a lot they are going to earn.
A root explanation for that is the UK’s system of separate employment statuses. Underneath the current system, there are 4 completely different teams: staff, employees who’re registered as self-employed however present a service as a part of another person’s enterprise (in any other case referred to as “limb (b) employees”), company employees and staff. Every group has completely different rights, which signifies that hundreds of thousands of individuals are denied the fundamental rights and protections that many people take with no consideration.
Staff are entitled to all of the statutory rights, as long as they’ve been employed for lengthy sufficient. Limb (b) employees obtain solely among the rights that staff do, such because the nationwide minimal wage and paid holidays. However they haven’t any safety from unfair dismissal and don’t have the proper to request versatile working, amongst different rights.
Then there are bogus self-employed employees. As a result of these employees are technically self-employed, they don’t seem to be entitled to the nationwide minimal wage, paid holidays and even some well being and security protections. This technique permits dangerous employers to falsely categorise employees as “self employed”, with fewer rights and protections. This apply is endemic throughout the gig economic system, which has ballooned in dimension and now accounts for about 5 million folks, lots of whom are being exploited and left to combat by way of the courts to determine their rights.
Everybody deserves safety at work. Because of this Labour has dedicated to making a single standing of “employee” for everybody however the genuinely self-employed, eradicating qualifying intervals for fundamental protections to offer employees rights of their job from day one.
Underneath these plans all employees would obtain sick pay, nationwide minimal wage entitlement, vacation pay, paid parental depart, a proper to versatile working as a default and safety in opposition to unfair dismissal. Alongside our dedication to increase statutory sick pay to the self-employed, this could make 6.1 million extra working folks eligible to say the profit.
Making a single standing of “employee” would guarantee all working folks obtain truthful pay, job safety and dignity. However it’s nonetheless not a magic bullet. Exploitative practices comparable to firing and rehiring have to be outlawed; zero-hours contracts have to be banned; we’d like an actual residing wage of no less than £10 an hour and employees have to be given the proper to a daily contract that displays their ordinary hours. And for folks to have a real voice at work, commerce unions have to be empowered to symbolize their members and to organise and cut price for working folks.
As a rustic, we’ve got a selection: we are able to both proceed with a damaged financial mannequin that denies employees fundamental rights, see additional development in insecure work and a unbroken stagnation of wages, or we are able to seize the restoration as a possibility to construct a society the place everyone seems to be entitled to truthful pay, job safety and dignity at work. Work needs to be a pillar on which we are able to construct our lives, not an impediment. Everybody wants and deserves improved residing requirements and financial safety. A brand new deal for working folks has by no means been extra pressing.
Andy McDonald is the Labour MP for Middlesbrough, and has been the shadow secretary for employment rights and protections since April 2020