Almost two-thirds (64%) of businesses would support tightening employment laws to prevent worker exploitation.
This is according to a poll conducted by the Centre for Progressive Policy think tank, which has recommended eliminating the use of zero hours contracts; clarifying employment status in law to reflect the modern economy; and implementing a minimum wage for the self-employed.
Some 40% of the 600 organisations polled by the CPP feel more responsibility to offer secure job contracts to staff in response to the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up, while 25% support further restricting or eliminating the use of zero hours contracts.
Rosie Stock Jones, senior research analyst at CPP, said the current crisis has increased the risk of poverty among those working in precarious jobs, including “key workers” such as cleaners and carers on insecure contracts.
“Maintaining a system that legitimises the exploitation of society’s most important workers and contributes to rising levels of in-work poverty can no longer be acceptable. If the government truly wants to level up the country and empower more people to contribute to and benefit from increasing prosperity, they must deliver proper protections and improved conditions for our lowest paid workers,” she said.
Paul Gregg, professor of economic and social policy at the University of Bath, said: “The last recession saw sharp increases in the levels of insecure employment – zero hours contracts, agency working and low-skilled contract workers designated as self-employed. This never receded through the strong jobs recovery. This Covid recession will undoubtedly see this repeated.”
The CPP’s From precarious to prosperous report also recommends setting up a single labour enforcement body – which has also been outlined in the government’s Good Work Plan – which the think tank said would improve transparency and support the most vulnerable workers.
It also urges the Office for National Statistics to collect more information on employment status and identify whether people are gig workers, workers, or employees.
Finally, it says the rights derived from the EU’s Working Time Directive should be preserved when the Brexit transition period comes to an end.