TUC: Ministers will have “conned working people” if employment bill delayed again

Katie Neame
© House of Lords 2017/Roger Harris

The TUC has said the government will have “conned working people” if it fails to bring forward its long-awaited employment bill in today’s Queen’s Speech amid reports the legislation has been shelved.

Frances O’Grady said failing to announce an employment bill in the speech would be an “act of betrayal” and highlighted the government’s ongoing failure to deliver on its commitments to strengthen workers’ rights.

The TUC general secretary said: “This government was elected on a manifesto promise to make Britain the best place to work in the world. Anything less than an employment bill today would be an act of betrayal – the government will have conned working people.

“Without new legislation workers will be denied a host of vital rights and protections ministers had promised to deliver. These include fair notice for shifts and payment for cancelled shifts, flexible working rights and protection from pregnancy discrimination – plus many more.

“Enough is enough. More than one million are on zero-hour contracts, 3.6 million are in insecure work and the size of the gig economy workforce has almost tripled in the past five years. Ministers have no excuse for breaking their pledge to enhance workers’ rights.”

The TUC raised concerns about reports that the employment bill has been shelved, highlighting that the legislation was first announced “well over two years ago” in December 2019.

The government said that the employment bill would “build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy”.

The union body is urging the government to deliver on its promise by using an employment bill to ban zero-hour contracts and clamp down on low-paid insecure work, which it argues has been allowed to spiral “unchecked” under successive Conservative governments.

The TUC recently published research that suggests that the government’s failure to tackle insecure work results in a £10bn hit to the public finances each year due to reduced tax revenue and increased social security payouts.

Following the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the government said the employment bill would protect and enhance workers’ rights and promote fairness in the workplace, by striking the right balance between economic flexibility and worker security

Ministers also claimed the bill would strengthen workers’ ability to obtain redress for poor treatment by creating a new, single enforcement body and build on existing employment law with measures that protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy.

The Tories made several further commitments on employment rights in their 2019 general election manifesto, including ensuring workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and reforming redundancy law so companies cannot discriminate against women returning from maternity leave.

The party also committed to legislating to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care, examining ways to make it easier for fathers to take paternity leave and extending the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers to a week.

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