Workers need stronger legal rights to protect them against the abuses of the growing zero hours contract culture, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 30 April).
Unite said that zero hours contracts – some estimates say that up to five million UK workers could be on such contracts – are tilted far too heavily in favour of the employers.
The idea that a worker on a zero hours contract could ask for a different sort of contract providing a minimum amount of work after six months was wide open to abuse, as the employee could just be let go by their boss.
And the situation has been made worse by recent changes in employment law that mean a worker seeking redress would have to stump up about £1,200 to obtain an employment tribunal hearing.
That charge - way beyond the pockets of low paid workers unfairly sacked - should be rescinded immediately.
Unite was commenting as the Office for National Statistics revealed today that there were 1.4 million employee contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours for the period January to February, with about 35 per cent on zero hours contracts wanting more hours.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Zero hours contracts are trapping at least 1.4 million people in a world of insecure, low paid work, where your future income is dependent on the whim of your boss.
“It is clear that that workers in the UK need stronger legal protection – not less as the government claims – to protect them against abuses. They need legal rights to challenge abuses and not be charged £1,200 to take a case to an employment tribunal.
“It is time for ministers to take action and ensure that all goods and services that government departments procure should be from outside organisations and companies that don’t use zero hours contracts.
“The national minimum wage (NMW) of £6.31 an hour needs to be raised by £1.50 an hour as some zero hours contract workers are not getting the NMW. Tough enforcement is also needed to ensure that the NMW is paid to all workers, whether they are on zero hours contracts or not.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.