Chris Stephens, MP for Glasgow South West, has urged fellow parliamentarians to back his Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill 2017-19, which will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 19 January. The SNP MP said his bill would ban zero-hours contracts, boost employment rights for gig economy workers and protect younger workers in an increasingly uncertain economy. …
Under the draft bill, a worker could only be employed on zero-hours terms where there was a specific agreement with their trade union. This goes further than recommendations made in Matthew Taylor’s Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, made earlier this year, which held back from endorsing a ban on zero-hours contracts, which it said would damage both employers and workers.
Instead, the Taylor Review had suggested introducing a higher minimum wage for employees on zero-hours and other flexible contracts. Stephens’s bill targets the issue of income stability among the UK workforce, but also comes in response to anxieties over the future of employment law in the UK after Brexit:
Stephens said the bill was particularly urgent given that if Britain left the EU without updated worker protections, the vast majority of jobs would become low paid, insecure and highly dependent on the worker being totally flexible.
But CIPD employee relations adviser Rachel Suff was more cautious on these claims, pointing out that “the UK already has more flexibility than is sometimes realised over employment law”, enabling it “to maintain one of the most lightly regulated labour markets in the OECD in terms of employment protection legislation”.
Ireland’s government began working on legislation to ban zero-hours contracts in most cases last summer and published its version of the bill last month, drawing criticism from both employer groups, who described it as too restrictive; and unions, who said it contained too many loopholes. Zero-hours contracts have been the subject of a great deal of controversy in the UK of late, following scandals at major companies and research suggesting that they have an adverse impact on employees. Accordingly, the number of these contracts has declined sharply in the past two years as employers reconsider whether the flexibility they offer is worth all the bad press.