A new report calls for a series of employment reforms to protect the lowest paid.
Labour market reforms are needed to tackle increasing job insecurity, according to a new study which calls for a ban on zero hours contracts, greater clarity on employment status and a minimum income for self employed workers.
The study by the Centre for Progressive Policy says Covid-19 crisis has intensified labour market pressures amongst an increasingly insecure workforce. The report brings together research on zero hours contracts, which show most people take insecure contracts for want of a more secure option, with a significant percentage being parents. They cite underemployment on zero hours contracts as a particular problem, with a Joseph Rowntree Foundation identifying underemployment as a driver of the rising levels of in-work poverty.
The think tank has polled over 600 businesses of all sizes and found that 40% of employers feel more responsibility to offer secure job contracts to staff in response to Covid-19 and that a quarter back a ban on zero hours contracts.
The report says insecure jobs without full employment rights or regular hours are not the answer to a Covid-led recession. It says: “Instead, people need to be supported into secure roles with opportunities for training and progression, not to be reliant on poor quality work with low productive potential. The recovery from the 2020 Covid-19 crisis must do better and must not legitimise exploitation.”
Its recommendations include calls for the government to clarify employment status in law, for instance, by introducing a statutory presumption that a person is a worker unless it can be proved that they are self-employed; to eliminate zero hours contracts, to protect worker rights as the UK leaves the EU, to implement a minimum wage for the self-employed, expanding on the principle behind the current relaxation of Universal Credit’s ‘Minimum Income Floor’, to collect more detailed data on employment status and to set up the single labour market enforcement body outlined in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto.
Rosie Stock Jones, Senior Research Analyst at CPP, says: “Long before Covid, we saw the emergence of a labour market in which too many people depended on precarious jobs. But the current crisis has increased the risk of poverty to those working in them. At the same time, it has underlined the value of key workers such as carers, cleaners and couriers, many of whom are on insecure contracts.
Maintaining a system that legitimises the exploitation of society’s most important workers and contributes to rising levels of in-work poverty can no longer be acceptable. If the government truly wants to level up the country and empower more people to contribute to and benefit from increasing prosperity, they must deliver proper protections and improved conditions for our lowest paid workers.”