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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

1.5 million workers at risk of missing out on key rights

The number of workers at risk of missing out on key employment protections has nearly doubled since 2006 to 1.5 million, an increase of 700,000, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Rules need to be 'dragged into the 21st century' ©iStock
Rules need to be 'dragged into the 21st century' ©iStock

Their Living on the edge report shows that one in 10 UK workers are now in precarious work, with rights such as the national minimum wage, protection against unfair dismissals, and automatic pension enrolment not guaranteed.

This is reflected in the rise of the ‘gig’ economy, where temporary positions are common, and organisations such as Deliveroo and Uber contract independent workers for short-term engagements.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady: “Insecure work has exploded in the past decade. In far too many cases, the only people who’ve benefited are bad bosses.

“Sports Direct can’t be the employment model for the 2020s.

“Gig economy workers face the double hit of poverty wages and weaker employment rights. Whether they’re waiting tables or driving for Uber, all workers deserve respect, fair pay and basic protections.”

The report also found that the average zero-hours worker now earns £3.80 less an hour than the average employee, 12% less than in 2006, with hourly pay increasing by only 67p in the last decade.

In addition, self-employed workers now have earnings 40% lower than employees, compared to 28% in 2016, while casual workers still get paid nearly 40% less an hour than the average worker – no improvement in the last 10 years.

The TUC are now calling on an independent review of employment practices, lead by RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor, to strengthen legal protections for precarious workers.

“The law hasn’t kept pace with how work has changed. That’s why the Taylor review must drag the rules that protect working people into the 21st century.

“Every day, unions expose the worst excesses of the gig economy and win important victories for workers across the country – just look at what we’re doing at Sports Direct and Uber.

“Any serious attempt to crack down on precarious jobs has to have trade unionism at its heart.”

The key rights/protections at risk are:

• National minimum wage  
• Holiday pay
• Maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental leave,   including the right to return to a job
• Right to request flexible working
• Protection against unfair and unlawful dismissal
• Redundancy pay
• Paid time-off
• Automatic enrolment into a pension scheme
• Maternity, adoption and paternity pay

Sophie Shaw, a union member who has worked in precarious jobs for eight years, said: “Zero-hours contracts can feel like you have zero rights too.

"If you get sick when you should be working, you simply don’t get paid, and might even be considered unreliable by your manager.

“I’ve even seen a colleague continue working in the kitchen with a broken arm, because they couldn’t afford the time off.

“Making any sort of financial plan is impossible when you don’t have guaranteed hours and are on rubbish pay. It’s no way to live.”