This week Glasgow West MP, Chris Stephens, is launching his Private Member’s Bill. The Workers’ Definition and Rights Bill sets out a systematic change in employment rights. At its heart the Bill seeks to give workers more power against the ever increasing climate of insecure work.
If you are (or were) engaged by another to provided labour you are an employee.
In addition, the Bill places the onus firmly on the employer to show that the individual is self-employed, and therefore not entitled to certain employment protections. At the minute, individuals have to show that they are an employee or a worker. This is exceptionally difficult for individuals to do, with the employer holding most of the relevant information. Not to mention money to fight legal challenges.
The Bill also entitles every employee to be given written notice of fixed and regular hours on commencing employment. If the employer wishes the employer to work over these hours this must be under procedures set out in a collective agreement with a recognised trades union. If there is not a union the worker has to receive written notice and will be paid double the usual rate.
Finally the Bill seeks to put an end to late cancellation or changes to shifts. Under the Bill employers are required to give an employee 7 days’ notice of a change or cancellation. If the worker accepts a shift a late notice they are entitled to be paid double their usual rate. There are also financial penalties in the Bill if the 7 days’ notice is not given.
This Bill is a very welcome development and one which, if passed, would revolutionise the British workforce and hold employers to account for their unscrupulous work practices. Employers would no longer be able to treat their employees like commodities and would have to give proper thought to workforce planning, how many staff they need and when, rather than relying on the exploitation of low paid workers just above the poverty line.
The current system of employment law is broken. It places too much power in the hands of the employer and the law protects their actions under the guise of a desire for flexibility in the labour market. The evidence, and experience of individuals, is to the contrary, with two-thirds of zero hours workers wanting guaranteed hours.
It is time for our politicians to act.