HR 7 June 2017

The downsides of insecure employment: Why employers should commit to good work

Uber has recently expanded into courier and food delivery services
Some 61 per cent of flexible workers had suffered stress as a result of their job

Writing for Business Advice, Alan Price, employment law and HR director at Peninsula, reflects on recent developments in the flexible economy and makes the case against insecure employment within small companies.

Research by the GMB Union has found that up to ten million Britons are currently in insecure employment. This includes roles in the “gig economy”, on zero-hours contracts, temporary workers, the underemployed and those who are falsely classed as self-employed.

Between 2014 to 2016 Peninsula experienced a 63 per cent increase in advice requests regarding employment status from small business owners.

Precarious employment is bad for the health and family life of these workers who, together, make up nearly a third of the UK workforce. The report found that 61 per cent of these workers had suffered stress as a result of their job, due to factors such as fear of losing roles, uncertain pay and insufficient hours.

A similar number said that they attended work whilst unwell because they feared losing future work as a result of any absence.

Workers who are faced with concerns over their job security are also likely to be bad for that business. Undertaking a lower quality role can result in the worker being less productive, less engaged and having a negative relationship with the work itself, and their colleagues.

Employers are being encouraged to do more for their workers and focus on providing “good work”. The government-commissioned Taylor review into modern employment practices, expected to report its findings following the General Election, is likely to focus on how the government can do more to remove the issues faced by those in insecure employment and the gig economy.

A speech by Matthew Taylor highlighted the issue of flexible, low paid and insecure employment by commenting that whilst this type of work has led to an increase in job roles, the quality of work has decreased as a result.

Employers can take simple steps to improve the quality of work they provide. Identifying and addressing issues such as job security, increasing communication, increasing worker integration in the company and providing opportunities for training and promotion will help motivate staff and provide job satisfaction.

Employers can also consider whether insecure employment contracts are best for their company. Some businesses are finding that although they use zero-hours contracts, their staff are currently working the same number of hours each week.

McDonalds has recently chosen to offer guaranteed hours contracts to their UK workforce with some staff moving and others choosing to stay on zero hours contracts.

Notwithstanding the bad publicity around zero-hours contracts, some companies find that these offer the flexibility needed by the business and workers themselves can find these best to fit around their personal lives.

Employers who use these style of contracts can, however, make changes to their internal procedures to ensure they are moving towards better working practices.

To do this, employers can consider how much notice they provide to staff regarding shift changes, payment practices and ensuring workers are given the correct rights. Zero-hours staff are able to be workers or employees – the rights will differ between the two types and its crucial employers are getting these right.

Read our mini-series covering all recent employment law changes in the gig economy

  1. The status of gig economy workers
  2. Looking to the future
  3. An international perspective

Alan Price is employment law and HR director at Peninsula. Peninsula recently released its Working Nation report

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