TUC criticises Government’s silence over employment rights

The TUC has criticised the absence of an employment bill in today’s Queen’s Speech and accused the government of ‘turning its back’ on working people.

Employee Rights

 

The TUC has accused the government of “turning its back” on working people after ministers failed to include an employment bill in the Queen’s Speech.

The TUC said failing to put forward an employment bill – a manifesto promise in 2019 –  will see “bad bosses celebrating”.  The bill was slated to include additional rights relating to maternity protections, carers and flexible working. A consultation on a day one right to request flexible working closed in December, but there has been on word since on any legislative changes as a result. The government has also consulted on a right to reasonable notice periods for shifts allocated and cancelled and payments for cancelled shifts.

The TUC says the following policies are among the changes anticipated in an employment bill. Plans to:

  • Ensure that tips go to workers in full.
  • Introduce a new right for all workers to request a more predictable contract.
  • Create a new single enforcement body offering greater protections for workers.
  • Extend redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
  • Make flexible working the default unless employers have good reason not to.
  • Allow parents to take extended paid leave for neonatal care.
  • Introduce a new legal entitlement to one week’s leave for unpaid carers.

The TUC also says that the government promise to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment risks falling by the wayside without the employment bill, as the policy needs primary legislation to carry it forward.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “The prime minister promised to make Britain the best place in the world to work. But he has turned his back on working people. Today, bad bosses up and down the country will be celebrating.

“No employment bill means vital rights that ministers had promised – like default flexible working, fair tips and protection from pregnancy discrimination – risk being ditched for good.

“And it means no action on the scourge of insecure work and ending exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire. After the P&O scandal, dragging our outdated labour laws into the 21st century has never been more urgent.”

She added: “By shelving the employment bill, ministers have sent a signal that they are happy for rogue employers to ride roughshod over workers’ rights. Enough is enough. This is a government that just doesn’t get it – from the cost of living emergency to the insecure work epidemic.

“People can’t wait for greater rights and security at work – they need it now.”

On flexible working and shift working, the charity Working Families stated: “Relying on employers alone to create flexible and family-friendly working environments is not enough. Too many parents and carers are struggling to balance their work and family commitments – particularly those in insecure work and on low incomes.

“Our research from 2021 shows that over three-quarters of UK parents want the Government to intervene to create more flexible jobs. The Government has a clear mandate to act.

“We also know from our research that a significant proportion of parents who work shifts receive less than a week’s notice of their shift patterns. The hardest hit are young, low-income families. This level of uncertainty – combined with last minute changes – carries a significant financial cost for workers. We are calling on the Government to take action to end this ‘insecurity premium’.

“With the lingering impact of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, it has never been more important for the Government to fulfil its commitments and build back better for the UK’s 13 million working parents.”

Neonatal leave

Catriona Ogilvy, Founder of The Smallest Things, a charity to help parents of premature babies, was disappointed that there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech on neonatal leave. She said: ‘’Each year, more than 100,000 premature and sick babies are admitted into UK neonatal units. There is currently no allowance for parents of these babies who can spend
weeks or months in hospital before going home. Many parents return to work whilst their baby is still in hospital and many mothers spend a significant portion of their maternity leave in the neonatal unit. Time spent in neonatal care should not be spent as maternity or paternity leave. We are asking people to email their MP, asking them to pledge their
support for Neonatal Leave as agreed but not delivered by the government.’’

Pensions

Personal finance experts have also expressed concerns about the Queen’s Speech, saying there was little mention of short-term financial measures to support those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and only vague words about making financial advice on pensions more accessible. Many older workers have dropped out of the workforce since the pandemic, with concerns about the longer term impact on pensioner poverty.

Andrew Megson from My Pension Expert said: “The silence surrounding policy to better improve access to advice is deafening. And whilst various attempts have been made to offer savers access to free online guidance or robo-advice, they have proven to be unsuccessful. For example, just 9% of UK adults aged 40 and over, used online guidance like the FCA’s pathways in 2021, according to My Pension Expert’s research. Surely, it is time to explore alternative solutions – a hybrid advice/online solution for example, could offer the invaluable combination of expert advice and tech efficiencies, all at a lower cost.”

 



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