The Taylor Review: Margaret Greenwood MP calls on government to take rights at work seriously and tackle insecure employment

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11 Jul 2017
Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, has urged the government to act to tackle insecure work such as zero-hour contracts and strengthen employment rights in response to the Taylor review of employment practices in the modern economy which has just been published.

The report by Matthew Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts, was commissioned by the government to review the changing nature of employment in the UK and one of the key issues it addressed was the legal definition of self-employment.

The Taylor review can be found at
https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/employment-practices-in-the-modern-economy

Around 2,500 people aged 16 or over in Wirral West were self-employed according to the latest statistics (for 2016). In Wirral as a whole, about 13,500 people aged 16 or over were self-employed.

Official figures show a 26% increase in the number of self-employed people in the UK over the last decade, rising to 4.8 million at the last count, or 15% of all people in work.

The TUC estimates that the number of self-employed workers who are low-paid has increased by 21% over that period.

103,000 people or 3% of those in employment in the North West were on a zero-hour contract in the last quarter of 2016 (official data on zero hour contracts is only available at a regional level).

In the UK as a whole the number was 905,000 (2.8% of those in employment).

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“The UK has seen a very sharp rise in both self-employment and zero-hour contracts in the last decade.

“The Taylor review makes a reasonable point that flexible work can suit some people, but my concern is that too often it offers flexibility for employers but not employees. It must be a two-way street.

“Zero-hour contracts for example require workers to be available without any obligation on the employer to offer a set number of hours each week, or in fact any hours at all.

“This creates real difficulties for people, especially if they are on low pay, as is often the case.

“Similarly, self-employment should be a positive choice for a worker and not a way for an unscrupulous employer to avoid their responsibilities for tax and National Insurance, holiday and sick pay.

“Uncertainty over the hours that someone will be working and so how much they will have coming in each week leaves families unable to plan their spending and often forced to pay more for essentials like energy because they are unable to pay by direct debit.

“In-work poverty is growing and cuts to Universal Credit could leave some families up to £2,600 worse off a year.

“The Taylor review acknowledges that it is unfair that people can have every aspect of their work controlled by a business, from pay rates to disciplinary action, yet still not be classed as a worker.

“However, its solution is to create a new status of ‘dependent contractor’ rather than for people to be classed as employees. In fact, UK courts have ruled in favour of workers in recent cases of this kind who have claimed that they should be classed as employees.

“A Labour government would ban zero-hour contracts, crack down on bogus self-employment by placing the onus on an employer to prove that a worker is self-employed and abolish fees for employment tribunals, fees that deter workers who have been unfairly treated from seeking redress.

“Government ministers often repeat that work must pay. The government should take action to ensure that it does so that people get a fair deal at work.”

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