An estimated 3.7 million people, or one in nine workers, are in insecure work in the UK, five years since the Taylor Review made numerous recommendations to improve job security and workers’ rights.
This is according to the TUC, which has accused the government of presiding over a “a litany of failures on workers’ rights” and a lack of action since Matthew Taylor’s recommendations and the subsequent good work plan were published.
The union body’s Insecure work report, which is based on analysis of the Office for National Statistics’ 2021 Labour Force Survey data, finds that 11.5% of the working population is in an insecure role, including working on a zero-hours contract (935,000 people); agency, casual or seasonal work (952,000); and in low-paid self employment, earning below the national minimum wage (1.9 million).
Its analysis of Q4 2020 data found nearly a quarter of those in insecure work are in “elementary” positions, such as security guards or taxi drivers, and 21% are process, plant or machine operatives. Nearly 20% are in skilled trades and 18.7% are in caring, leisure or other services roles.
Insecure work is particularly prevalent in Wales (13.4%), the South West (12.4%) and in Northern Ireland (12.2%). The lowest proportion of work insecurity was found in Yorkshire and Humberside (9%).
Men were more likely to be in insecure work (12.1% of the male working population) than women (10.9%). Ethnic minority groups also faced a higher likelihood of work insecurity (14.6% of ethnic minority workers, compared with 11.1% of white workers).
The report urges the govenrment to strengthen collective bargaining, improve workers’ rights and protections and increase enforcement of employment laws.
Specific recommendations include:
- the establishment of new fair pay agreements, where unions and employers can negotiate across sectors to set minimum standards, starting with hospitality and social care;
- expanding the scope of collective bargaining rights to include pay and pensions, working time and holidays, equality issues (including maternity and paternity rights), health and safety, grievance and disciplinary processes, training and development, the nature and level of staffing, and work organisation, including the introduction of new technologies;
- a ban on zero hours contracts through a right to a normal-hours contract and robust rules governing adequate notice of shifts and compensation for cancelled shifts;
- addressing the inadequate funding of the state-led enforcement system. To hit the International Labour Organisation’s benchmark of one inspector per 10,000 workers, the UK would need 3,287 inspectors. There are currently 1,490.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This Conservative government promised to make Britain the best place in the world to work. But ministers have torched that promise – first by failing to bring forward an employment bill and now by brazenly attacking workers’ bargaining power and union rights.
“The UK is a nation of insecure work. In every corner of Britain, working people are in precarious, low-paid jobs.
“Enough is enough. It’s time to tackle our insecure work epidemic by banning zero hours contracts, giving workers the day one right to flexible working and strengthening collective bargaining so that workers have more power to improve their pay and conditions.”
The TUC has today announced Paul Nowak as its new general secretary. He will take over from O’Grady, who retires at the end of this year.