‘Tens of thousands more could be in insecure work by 2022’

Young People


Some 290,000 more people could be trapped in insecure work by 2022 if current trends continue, the TUC has warned.

The figures show that by the start of 2022, 3.5 million people could be in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, temp or agency work and low-paid self-employment.

Previous TUC research found that workers on insecure zero-hours contracts earn a third less per hour than the average worker.

The TUC says that insecure work costs the Treasury £4 billion a year in lost income tax and national insurance contributions, along with extra benefits and tax credits.

However, there are signs of a change in approach to zero hours contracts after recent controversies involving employers such as Sport’s Direct. McDonald’s has just announced plans to allow its UK staff a choice over working fixed hours or having zero-hours contracts and is giving its staff an average 17% pay rise.

The announcement comes after a pilot, which showed around 20% of staff opted for fixed hours and that there was a rise in employee and customer satisfaction as a result of the change. Staff were offered fixed contracts in line with the average hours they worked weekly, ranging from four, eight and 16 hours to 30 and 35 hours a week.  The offer will initially be extended to 50 more restaurants, before rolling out nationally across the year, to include existing employees and new recruits.

Meanwhile, Matthew Taylor, who is leading a review of modern employment, floated the idea recently that employers should pay a premium for zero hours workers to compensate for their lack of security and employment rights.

The TUC is calling for:

  • A ban on zero-hours contracts
  • People on variable-hours contracts to get overtime pay for hours outside of their contracts.
  • All workers to have a right to a written statement of terms, conditions and working hours, from day one.
  • Everyone at work to get the same rights as an employee, unless the employer can show that they are genuinely self-employed.
  • Agency workers should be entitled to the going rate for the job, on an equal basis with directly-employed workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Paying rent and bills can be a nightmare when you don’t know how much you’ve got coming in each month. And planning childcare is impossible when you’re constantly at the beck and call of employers.

“The next government will need to tackle this problem head on. Every party manifesto must have real commitments to crack down on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment. And agency workers should always get the going rate for the job.”

 O’Grady also commented on employment rights post-Brexit, saying: “The next government must guarantee that there will continue to be a level playing field after Brexit. When EU rights improve, so must UK rights. Otherwise UK workers will fall behind and become the second-class citizens of Europe.

“Commons standards to protect workers, the environment and consumers must be at the heart of our negotiations with the EU.”

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