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New rights for zero hours workers surface ahead of Taylor review

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Employees on zero-hours contracts should be given the right to request fixed hours, the government commissioned independent review by Matthew Taylor is expected to say.


According to the BBC, which leaked the recommendation, the report will say that workers on zero hours contracts should be given the "right to request" fixed hours.

The BBC says it would work similarly to the right to request flexible hours – a right currently available to all employees, which has to be considered seriously by the employer and only rejected if there is a good reason for doing so.

There are 903,000 people on zero hours contracts as their main job according to the Office for National Statistics, as of June 2016 when data was last published. It found there had been a 20 per cent jump in numbers of people on zero hours compared with just the previous year.

Zero hours is still not a legal definition, but is used by the government and the ONS to mean a contract where no work is guaranteed.

The origins of the term goes back to the early 1990s recession when their use increased dramatically as companies tried to save money.

The review known as the Taylor review, is by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

An ex advisor to Tony Blair, he was given a mandate by the Conservatives to investigate into modern employment practices.

His wider aims are to encourage ‘good work’ both in his work for the RSA and for the review.

In his review he is looking into the drivers for the zero hours economy, such as exploitative businesses, who may be abusing zero hours contracts as a way of evading costs – such as statutory sick and holiday pay.

“Why do people work in particular ways? Is it driven by ‘what’s productive, what’s innovative, what’s creative, what provides a great service’. Or by [factors] that are not particularly economically functional for human wellbeing but are just clever ways to make sure companies avoid taxes and regulations," he said at the inaugural fact gathering roadshow for the review in February.

The Labour party and the Lib democrats have both pledged to crack down on zero hours. Labour said it would ban the contracts outright, while the Lib Dem manifesto said that they would also create a formal right to request a fixed contract.

Conservatives said in their manifesto they will 'act to ensure’ people on zero hours are properly protected if they get in power. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady criticised the Torys' approach saying: “All parties should be upfront about what is on offer to working people trapped in insecure work this election – and stop hiding behind a review that will report after voting is over.”

She said the recommendation revealed today also did not go far enough, amounting to 'zero action on zero-hours contracts'. "A ‘right to request’ guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers.

“To make a real change, we should turn this policy on its head. Everyone should be entitled to guaranteed hours, with a genuine choice for workers to opt-out, free from pressure from their boss. And anyone asked to work outside their contracted hours should be paid extra on top of their usual wage," she said. 

 

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