'Right to request' option on guaranteed hours of work criticised

By staff writers
May 24, 2017

The BBC has reported that the Taylor Review on modern employment practices will recommend that workers on zero hours contracts will only have a 'right to request' guaranteed hours.

Matthew Taylor, the head of the Royal Society of Arts who is leading the inquiry, expresses the view that some workers might be being exploited by businesses. The 'right to request' fixed hours could be used by some of the 900,000 people on zero-hours contracts. This number has risen from 143,000 in 2008.

The contracts have been attacked for allowing some firms to keep people in insecure work, depress wages and deny people their full employee rights.

The Trades Union (TUC) General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This could mean close to zero action on zero-hours contracts. A 'right to request' guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers.

"To make a real change, we should turn this policy on its head. Everyone should be entitled to guaranteed hours, with a genuine choice for workers to opt-out, free from pressure from their boss. And anyone asked to work outside their contracted hours should be paid extra on top of their usual wage.

"All parties should be upfront about what is on offer to working people trapped in insecure work this election – and stop hiding behind a review that will report after voting is over."

The TUC is concerned that:

  • Employers will simply be able to refuse any request for guaranteed hours, offering no clear evidence or criteria for refusal;
  • People on zero hours contracts will be reluctant to ask for fear of being victimised for the request – for example by not being offered future work;
  • If there is no right to be represented (for example by a union rep) when making the request, it will be far harder to successfully request guaranteed hours;
  • Existing "rights to request" (such as for flexible working) have a six-month qualifying period. Secure hours should be a right from day one of employment;
  • Existing 'rights to request' have low awareness, meaning that many people who could benefit may be excluded.

The Conservatives, who commissioned the Taylor review, have said they would look at new rights for people working in the 'gig-economy'..

Labour has proposed banning zero hours contracts if it wins the general election and the Liberal Democrats have said they back a 'right to request' change to current employment regulations.

Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years.


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