Workers in the UK are struggling. People are trying to build families, but living on poverty pay it is nigh on impossible for them to plan for the future or get out of debt.
Short-term and temporary contracts can cause just as much insecurity as zero-hours ones. Unscrupulous employers are getting away with cutting corners, confident that workers will not rock the boat because they are so scared of losing their jobs.
That is why we have been looking to the government for better rights at work. We have also wanted decisive action from ministers to tackle exploitative contracts and improve enforcement of the law; moves that would bring immediate relief for many working families.
Instead, with the Taylor Review, we have been given watered-down proposals for our consultation. Some of the steps, like ending the Swedish Derogation (affecting the rights of agency workers), improving holiday pay and sick pay enforcement, and extending the remit of HM Revenue and Customs, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and the Low Pay Commission, are all very welcome.
But as a response to a crisis, the Taylor Review and the government’s reply to it are wholly inadequate. While ministers consult and review, workers are having to resort to the courts to get decisions on their fundamental rights.
One urgent issue is rampant illegal pay in the social care sector. It is shocking that so many are paid below the minimum wage. This undermines the care provided to elderly and disabled people, and pushes workers into poverty.
Employers get away with it because payslips can be so confusing workers cannot tell whether they are being paid for all of the hours they work. As a result, many experienced care staff are leaving for better paid jobs elsewhere, simply because they cannot afford to stay.
As part of its response to Taylor, the government proposed asking employers to include hourly information on care workers’ payslips, but many home care employers already list the hours they pay.
The problem is that when care workers’ travel time is not included, it is helping keep illegal pay hidden. It is another example of how the government has missed a real opportunity to tackle injustice with the Taylor Review. So much more needs to happen if we are to give everyone, no matter where they work or what job they do, the same equality of opportunity.
Christina McAnea is assistant general secretary at trade union Unison