A new study from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) reveals that the UK has seen significant growth in insecure forms of employment compared to other EU countries, including bogus self-employment and zero-hours jobs.
The report, International Trends in Insecure Work, shows the UK had the largest increase in the number of self-employed workers among EU countries from 2008 to 2015, and the third largest increase in temporary workers.
The study, commissioned by the TUC from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), warns of relatively weak legal protections and poorer access to benefits for those in bogus self-employment, agency work and on zero-hour contracts.
It attributes the rise to a lack of effective legislation and calls on all political parties to explain in their general election manifestos how they would improve worker’s rights.
TUC says the rapid growth in insecure jobs cannot be explained simply as a result of strong employment growth overall, adding that these forms of employment should not be seen “as a necessary evil to get more people into work”.
Germany has seen the strongest employment growth of all EU countries but has also seen a reduction in insecure employment types, while workers in France can only be on a fixed-term contract for a maximum of 18 months.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We don’t need to accept insecure jobs as a necessary evil to get more people into work. In Germany, employment growth has been the strongest in the EU, but at the same time insecure employment has declined.
“It’s time Britain stopped being a soft touch for bad bosses. Otherwise the dodgy practices we’ve seen from employers like Hermes and Sports Direct will spread to more and more working people.
“All the parties must explain in their election manifestos how they will improve the rights of working people.
“There are millions of insecure workers in Britain who need a government that will flex its muscles to fight their corner, and stand up to bosses who treat them badly.
“If countries like France, the Netherlands and Germany can give their working people more protection, Britain can too.”
NIESR Researcher Nathan Hudson-Sharp said: “While insecure work in other European countries has been characterised by the emergence of regulation and policy, the UK has noticeably lacked much needed new legislation.
“The UK therefore stands out for having very precarious forms work, and for creating arrangements where workers are at particular risk of insecurity.”
Commenting on the TUC’s report, Nigel Keohane, director of research at the Social Market Foundation, said: “This research highlights yet again that self-employment has torn a hole in the welfare safety net, and that hole is only getting bigger as the number of self-employed workers increases.
“Our research has shown that almost half of the self-employed were paid less than the equivalent of the National Living Wage in 2016.
“They cannot access the genuine benefits of self-employment, yet access no upsides of employment, such as sick pay, access to training, or pensions.”
The Labour Party recently published its 20-point plan to improve worker’s rights and vowed to ban zero hour contracts.
And a report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, released on Mayday, accused “gig economy” companies of forcing workers into bogus self-employment and “free-riding” on the welfare state.
Commenting on the report, Committee chair Frank Field said: “Companies in the gig economy are free-riding on the welfare state, avoiding all their responsibilities to profit from this bogus ‘self-employed’ designation while ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab.”