My name is Rachel Goodwin. For those that do not know me I am the vice chair of this CLP and also the Trade Union Liaison Officer.I am also a Trade Union shop steward, Health and Safety Rep, Learning Rep and a Divisional Councillor for USDAW.
I am here to talk to you about Employment.
Employment, what is it? In its simplest form, it’s someone being paid to work for an organisation or company.
Now, most of your statutory employment rights (those that come from an act of parliament or legislation) are dependent upon your employment status. Whether you are an ‘employee’ a ‘worker’.
So what are the main differences to determine whether you are an employee or a worker?
Well those who have a contract of employment are employees and ‘if there is no contract of employment but there is a legal obligation to perform work personally, then you are a worker’. (Owen N, 2015: 30)
So what are your basic rights? Let’s have a bit of fun. I’m going to list some of the basic rights. Some of these rights both workers and employee are entitled too however there are some that just employees are entitled too. Let’s see if you know the difference.
1) Information on pay, notice and holidays
2) National Minimum wage
3) Protection from unfair dismissal
4) Implied contract terms
5) Protection from unlawful wage deductions
6) Time off for union duties, training and activities
7) Time off for public duties
8) Equal pay
9) Working hours and breaks
10) Time off for antenatal care
11) Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay and leave
13) Written statement of particulars
14) Shared parental rights
15) Not be refused work because of union membership
16) The right to request flexible working – now for all employees
17) To be accompanied at a disciplinary/grievance
18) Protection against whistle blowing
19) Protection from TUPE
20) Redundancy pay and rights
1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 12, 15, 17, 18 = Workers and Employees
3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20 = Employees
(Owen N, 2015: 31-32)
It’s worth noting that crown employees are entitled to most of these statutory rights except for redundancy and collective consultation rights and minimum notice. Instead the rights they have, under agreements within their own employment, are usually the same or better.
(Owen N, 2015: 55)
Let’s have a quick look at agency staff
When talking about Agency workers rights, Owen (2015: 51) states, ‘Since 1 October 2011, temporary agency workers have extra rights under the Agency Workers Regulations 2010. These rights are based on the principle of equality of treatment with comparable direct employees of the hirer and are intended to implement European law’.
Agency workers have rights from day 1 and also from 12 weeks.
From day one, they have equal access to collective facilities such as canteens, toilets, car parking and also information and the opportunity to apply for vacancies in the hirers workplace.
After 12 weeks on a job in the same role with the same hirer they are entitled to equal treatment on pay (basic pay, holiday pay, unsocial hours payment and overtime pay), holidays and working time and improved pregnancy rights.
(Owens, N 2015: 51)
So where do these rights originate from?
The rights that we have in the UK have come about from European Directives. These Directives set out what member states of the EU need to implement in their own countries by way of passing legislation via their own parliaments. This is known as the Social Chapter.
The UK at first refused to join the Social Chapter. This was when our country was run by Margaret Thatcher, who, at the time, was against the Trade Unions and Workers Rights.
In 1997, The Labour party signed the UK up to the social chapter.
This allows the member states to take action on working conditions, improvement in the working environments to protect workers health and safety, and equality between men and women in regards to job opportunities and treatment at work. The areas of pay and the right to strike are excluded from the scope of the agreement.
(Lourie, J 1997: 7-8)
So what are some of the main rights the UK has implemented thanks to the EU?
• The Working Time directive (48hr week, 13hr working day, annual leave)
• Maternity Leave and Pay (all women entitled to maternity leave, women paid an adequate allowance during maternity leave, employers to make assessment of the risks to the health and safety of pregnant / breastfeeding women)
• Young Workers ( working hour restrictions of 8hrs a day, cannot work between 10pm and 6am, a break of 30mins where the working time exceeds 4.5hrs
• Parental Leave
• Part Time and Temporary Workers (no less favourable treatment then full time workers – both statutory rights and contractual rights)
• TUPE – Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment. (employees transferred from one employer to another to receive same pay and conditions of service
• Redundancies and Transfers (Employers to inform and consult with representatives of their employees
• Onus of Proof (the nurden of proof in equal pay and discrimination cases should be on the employer to prove they hadn’t and not the employee to prove they had)
• Removal of the upper limit on compensation in sex discrimination cases
• Protection against dismissal for ‘whistleblowing’
(Lourie, J 1997: 24-53)
One of the many concerns of the UK leaving the EU is that these rights can be taken away from workers. With a conservative government like ours hell bent on taking workers rights away, the lack of the EU Social chapter holding the UK to account, means the Government can remove any law we have which the EU required us to pass.
Trade Unions are always fighting to improve these basic rights within individual companies through collective bargaining. for example, by Law, workers are entitled to a break of 20mins after 6 hours of work. However some companies offer better.
Considering the Conservatives past record over the last decade, I can see this as a major concern. As someone who was on the fence over Europe, knowing this information has well and truly put me on the Pro European side. I want my rights and do not want to lose them. Nobody does.
So what have the Conservative government done to erode workers rights so far?
In April 2012, the law around Unfair dismissal was changed. You used to have to work continuously for the same employer for a year before lodging a claim. This has now been extended to two years.
however no service is needed for dismissal related to a political belief or for a discriminatory dismissal.
To lodge a claim you now have to pay a Tribunal Fee. This was introduced in 2013. The Tribunal fee for unfair dismissal will cost £1200. Since 2014, you also need to complete an Acas Early Concilliation Certificate.
(Owens, N 2015: 272)
So what counts as dismissal? Where the employer ends the contract with or without notice, the employer does not renew a fixed term contract, the employee resigns in response to a fundamental breach of the contract by the employer (constructive dismissal), Employee resigns in response to an unambiguous ultimatum, employee made redundant or a woman not being allowed to return to work after maternity.
(Owens, N 2015: 273)
So what makes a dismissal unfair? Its unfair unless the employer can show the dismissal was for one of the 5 statutory reasons – capability, conduct, redundancy, to comply with a legal duty or some other substantial reason. Establishing this ‘fair’ reason is only the 1st step. The 2nd step is for the employer to show dismissal was reasonable in all circumstances and followed a fair procedure. There are some automatic reasons that are unfair and they are dismissal for:
• Pregnancy and parental rights
• Trade Union Membership
• An employee seeking Union Recognition
• Taking Part in Official Industrial Action
• For asserting their statutory rights
• For a spent conviction
• Refusing to work a Sunday
• Lawfully pursuing their rights for National minimum Wage
(Owens, N, 2015: 284, 298 – 303)
Those on low incomes or those who have not reached the two year employment mark are in a way, at risk of job insecurity as their employer can unfairly dismiss them without them having any chance of a say. Even if they reach that milestone, they then need to be able to pay for it. Unless they are in a Trade Union that offer a legal service, they cannot afford to lodge a claim and some employers will use this to their advantage.
In 2013 they implemented the Employee shareholder status. This is the ‘shares for rights’ scheme. Employees can forfeit their statutory rights to claim unfair dismissal, redundancy pay, flexible working request and requests for time off to train all in return for shares in the company between £2000 and £50,000. These shares don’t have to be in the external sales market. They are not guaranteed equal voting rights or dividends. The TUC has warned that in essence, some individuals may be trading their important rights for worthless shares. The TUC notes ‘Employment rights should not be for sale. Employers do not want to buy them and employees will not want to sell them’.
(Owens, N 2015: 56-57)
Question, up until September 2015, how many of the estimated 6000 companies the department for business innovation and skills assumed would take up the ‘shares for rights’ scheme actually did?
In September 2015, the treasury confirmed that HM Revenue and Customs had only agreed 350 share valuations – 7830 employees. Seems the TUC were right.
(Employee Shareholder status gains ground slowly, ND)
National Minimum Wage
This year the new ‘national living wage’ of £7.20 is to be introduced in April 2016– but only for the over 25s. Everyone else under 25 will be on the same rate as they were previously on the minimum wage. (21-24 £6.70, 18-20 £5.30, 16-17 £3.87)
This is very unfair and very wrong. Young people in their first part of working life are at a detriment. Some companies within retail pay the same amount to all age groups so that they are fair and consistent, but not all employers do. Isn’t it about time that we as a party challenged this? Maybe even petition Europe and claim its age discrimination?
Its usually the young workers that get the heavier loads as they are sometimes seen as more able bodied.
It is important to note that the national living wage the government bought in is a supplemented national minimum wage and is not the same as the living wage, which is independently calculated. IKEA has become the first UK wide retailer to sign up to the living wage accreditation in April 2016.
Zero Hour Contracts
These are contracts which a worker will sign and each week they are guaranteed 0 hours. The company will offer hours to the workers when they can. This is not always guaranteed.
One of the concerns from this is job insecurity. How many people on low wages, do you think would challenge their employers on being treated unfairly in the workplace if their managers can say ‘sorry, no work this week’? It would probably scare the most in need from ever lodging a complaint against their employers for this very reason.
Another concern is the fact it makes it difficult to have a guaranteed income therefore trying to secure a mortgage or even renting will be a challenge as you do not know from one week to the next what you will be earning.
Some interesting facts on Zero hour contracts:
• According to ONS figures released September 5th 2015, the number of people on contracts with no guaranteed hours had increased from the previous year. Anyone like to have a guess what that percentage increase was?
It was 19.2%. it went from 624,000 people to 722,000
• Someone on a zero hour contract is more likely to be under 25 and will work an average of 25 hours a week. (can you see where the tories have got it in for our young people yet?)
• The TUC said on average workers on zero hour contracts will earn on average £300 less then those in secure jobs
• Research from recruiter ‘glassdoor’ found that nearly 1 in 4 unemployed adults were offered a zero hours contract with only 40% of unemployed adults saying they would accept it. The reason for rejection was the need for a guaranteed income and lack of trust in prospective employers.
(Usdaw Research Bargaining Report. 2015)
So to summarise very briefly, the Conservatives are basically destroying and eroding our basic employment rates with every opportunity they have. If we are not careful and we do not stand together, then more and more will be done to erase our rights, and without Europe, we have no one to hold the UK government to account, except for ourselves and we will need to stand together if our rights start to disappear – after all, there is power in numbers
Report By: Rachel Goodwin
Speech Given at Canterbury Constituency Labour Party All Members Meeting on 02/02/2016
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DfBIS) (2015) ‘National Living Wage (NLW)’, DfBIS Publications. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-living-wage-nlw/national-living-wage-nlw Accessed: [30/01/16]
Lourie, J. (1997) ‘The Social Chapter’ Research Paper 97/102, Business and Transport Section, House Of Commons Library. Available at: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/RP97-102/RP97-102.pdf Accessed: [29/01/16]
ND (2015) ‘Employee Shareholder Status Gains Ground Slowly’, Available at:
http://www.esopcentre.com/employee-shareholder-status-gains-ground-slowly/ Accessed: [30/01/16]
Owen, N. (2015) ‘Law At Work 2015’, Labour Research Department Books