Human Rights: possibilities and problems for labour law LIVERPOOL

21/10/2015 09:33
21/10/2015 15:33

Equality and Discrimination: post election priorities

07/10/2015 09:29
07/10/2015 15:32

Wednesday 7 October 2015

A one-day conference

Diskus Room, Unite the Union, London

The Institute of Employment Rights in association with Bindmans LLP.

Write up:

9 October 2015

By Roger Jeary, IER Blogger

Siobhan Endean Equality National Officer at Unite opened the Conference by welcoming delegates and explained that she and Harrish Patel, another Unite National Officer for Equality, would be sharing the chairing arrangements for the day. Siobhan introduced the first speaker Duncan Exley, Executive Director of The Equality Trust.

Zero Hours Contracts

It’s was dressed up as emancipation from the industrial hardship and immobility of yesteryear, but the new “flexible” labour market has turned out to be a wasteland of insecurity, precarity and evaporating employment rights. “Post-Fordism” has sent us a mass of low-skilled jobs requiring little or no training, and a reserve army of jobseekers ready to do them. We must be willing to work for less money, in worse conditions, with inconsistent hours and be grateful to boot – for if we aren’t, someone else will be. Collective bargaining power is weakened, employment protections dissembled and poverty pay entrenched. With the responsibly now placed on the shoulders of the individual as “personal failure”, employment is now best described as occupational darwinism. Couple this with an unflinchingly pro-business political establishment and any alternative seems at best far-off, and at worst delusional.

Zero hours contracts are the most extreme example of the new types of deregulated, precarious work in Britain, and they on a rapid rise. Introduced to side-step employment protections from Europe, the number of ZHCs in Britain now stands at 1.8m, and is increasing at least 19 percent year-on-year. There are now 700,000 people whose main income derives from this type of insecure contract; as for many employed on them, one job is not enough.

The link between the rise of work insecurity and the deterioration of our collective mental health is not speculative but well established. With the guarantee of stable employment, sick pay, and a pension now looking like a relic of the past and a backdrop of rabid privatisation and an increasingly skeletal welfare state its no wonder that anxiety, depression and suicide are on the rise. Suddenly, the new form of capitalism doesn’t look any more appealing than the old one.

But what are they?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2013) defines ZHCs as; “An employment contract in which an employer does not guarantee the individual any work, and the individual is not obliged to accept any work offered”. The individual works only when needed by the employer, and often at short notice. While in theory the worker is entitled to reject work, in reality it is likely that this would often lead to discrimination or termination of employment. And here lies the heart of the issue – flexibility for the employer, and insecurity for the worker.

The majority of those on ZHCs will be classified as ‘workers’ so will be entitled to basic employment rights (minimum wage, working time, health and safety protections), but are prevented from acquiring significant protection against dismissal by the operation of outdated rules on continuity of employment. Equally there is evidence that many on these contracts are not informed of the nature of their contract or basic employment provisions, so for example their holiday pay – a statutory right – goes untaken. Most ZHC workers are on the minimum wage (currently £6.50).

Extending Rights for Workers

By Andrew James, Solicitor

Much has been reported in recent months about the inequity of zero hours contracts (ZHCs). ZHCs are quite rightly seen as a form of employment relationship which leaves workers open to abuse and exploitation. Indeed, such contracts are often used as a conscious long term strategy by businesses to cut costs…

Read the full blog here…

News and Comment

Re-regulating Zero Hours Contracts

By Zoe Adams and Simon Deakin

The current debate over zero hours contracts is generating more heat than light. The authors of this report point to rigidities in employment law and the operation of the tax-benefit system as being responsible for the rise in zero hours contracting. The ban on so-called exclusivity clauses is a red herring. Instead the authors propose reforms based on European examples including the reform of the UK’s archaic rules on continuity of employment; changes to the benefit system, which currently encourage employers to offer short-hours, low-waged work and force individuals into accepting such work or lose benefits; and better use of new EU procurement laws which increase the scope for social issues to be taken into account when awarding public contracts.

Sports Direct; A case in point

The use of ZHCs by sport and clothing giant Sports Direct International epitomises the malpractice that ZHCs make possible. The company (as well as a host of others like Amazon, McDonalds, Dominos) employs the vast majority of its employees on poor pay with no employment benefits while profits and share prices soar.

The TUC report The Decent Jobs Deficit – The Human Cost of Zero-Hours Working in the UK stresses the need for better access to union representation and collective bargaining if we are to curtail ZHCs. Keith Ewing and John Hendy explain what collective bargaining is, and why we need it here.

Zero Hours Contracts and Inequality

A major study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had found that the rise in in self-employment, temporary and part-time jobs over the past two decades has been a key factor in the rise of inequality.

“In the six years since the global economic crisis, standard jobs were destroyed while part-time employment continued to increase…Non-standard workers are worse off in terms of many aspects of job quality. They tend to receive less training and, in addition, those on temporary contracts have more job strain and have less job security than workers in standard jobs. Earnings levels are also lower in terms of annual and hourly wages – OECD

Trade Unions and Economic Inequality

By Dr Lydia Hayes and Professor Tonia Novitz

Lydia Hayes and Tonia Novitz begin by recoding the consistent popularity of trade unions. And yet, despite this popularity, trade union membership has declined and the number of workers who currently have their terms and conditions of work negotiated by a trade union has fallen dramatically. This decline is thanks to thanks to trade union laws which inhibit trade union recruitment, activity and collective bargaining and attacks on trade union activities by politicians and misrepresentation in the media. The result has been a dramatic increase in levels of economic inequality, reflected in the fact that income differences between top earners and those on the lowest wages are now higher than at any time since records began. The UK now ranks as one of the most unequal societies in the developed world and, according to the authors, current levels of inequality have far exceeded the point at which inequality is proven to be socially corrosive.

“We cannot build a secure recovery off the back of zero-hours contracts and weaker employment rights. If we don’t create more decent jobs inequality will continue to soar and the economy risks running out of steam” – Frances O’Grady

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Employment Law Update LIVERPOOL

02/12/2015 09:30

Wednesday 2 December 2015.

A one-day conference

The Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool.

This was the ninth annual Employment Law Update Conference, organised by the Institute of Employment Rights held in association with Old Square Chambers and the TUC, and the first to take place under an all Conservative Government. It was a must-go-to event, but for those who couldn’t get there, our blogger has summarised the day below and the speakers papers are attached.

Withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights: What will it mean for workers?

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Join our mailing list for free for updates on employment law and trade union rights issues, including blacklisting; or buy a paid subscription from as little as £25 per year to receive free publications, reduced-price entry to our employment law conferences and access to our electronic resources.


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