Let’s be clear: precarious work can be deadly. Here’s how we’re fighting it in London

DPD courier Don Lane died after missing doctors appointments because he felt under pressure to cover his round facing a £150 fine if he missed it.

After dither and delay over a period of seven months, this month the Government finally published its response to the Taylor Review on Modern Employment Practices. It is fair to say that its commitment to protecting workers in insecure jobs falls far short of the mark.

The need for meaningful action from the Government has been made ever-more urgent in light of the tragic death of Don Lane, a DPD worker who, shamefully, was fined by the company for attending urgent medical appointments.

The Taylor Review was a tentative step forward to securing better access to basic rights such as holiday pay, sick pay and the minimum wage.

In its tepid response, the Government has pledged that nearly all the recommendations made by the Review will be adopted.

However, these measures do not go nearly far enough: for many Londoners job security and fair wages are the difference between getting by and worrying about being able to pay the bills at the end of the month.

As things stand, 1.8 million workers affected by bogus self-employment are still bereft of key protections. The Government has also refused to enforce minimum pay requirements or a ban, or further restrictions, on zero-hour contracts.

This is particularly disappointing: findings from my report, Zero Sum Game, revealed that 75 per cent of zero-hours workers in Greater London are paid less than the London Living Wage. 

The number of Londoners on zero-hours contracts is continuing to rise, and in 2017 it stood at 118,000.

It should be a priority of the Government to address the symptomatic issues of insecure work, such as low pay, under-employment, poorer employment conditions and the difficulties it presents to accessing welfare benefits and housing.

It is simply not good enough that the Government has only made the tenuous gesture in this area that staff employed on zero hours contracts are to be given the right to request a more predictable contract.

This makes little difference to existing arrangements, and the burden should be shifted towards the employer to provide a stable working schedule for its workforce.

My report, Zero Sum Game, goes further than the Taylor Review and recommends that employees should receive a written statement of terms and conditions which sets out in writing how many hours a week they will be expected to work.

After a certain period of time, employees should also be entitled to a contracted guaranteed minimum number of hours based on how many hours they have regularly been working.

There are a number of other gaps in the Government’s response, including its failure to specify a coherent timetable of exactly when new rights for workers will be implemented, and a deafening silence on trade union involvement.

Boris Johnson’s recent suggestion that workers’ rights are an ‘intolerable’ burden paints a worrying picture of at least some members of the Government’s real views.

The Government’s failure to strengthen workers’ rights will continue to affect the lives of many ordinary Londoners on low or moderate incomes.

The cost of living in our city is already high, and shockingly, 27 per cent of Londoners live in poverty after housing costs are taken into account, the majority of whom are in a working family.

The Mayor’s Economic Development Strategy rightly links economic fairness with the economic future and prosperity of our city.

It is vital his aspirations to ensure all workers in our capital are paid at least the London Living Wage bear fruit and that workers are protected from exploitative management practices.

At the same time, it would be helpful if the Government faced up to the complex challenges posed by the modern working world, and stepped up to the mark.

Fiona Twycross is a Labour London Assembly Member and tweets here.

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