My Zero Hours Bill will protect lowest paid and most vulnerable workers

On Monday 24th June, I will present two Private Members’ Bills to the House of Commons that seek to offer greater protection for the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in Britain.

The Zero Hours Contracts Bill will prohibit the use of zero hours employment contracts. It aims to end the scandal of employers requiring workers to be available for work but where there is no guarantee of work available.  The Office of National Statistics estimates at least 200,000 people are employed on zero hours contracts in the UK, of which 75,000 are aged 16-24.   Zero hours contracts are now widespread in many sectors of the economy and are particularly prevalent in areas of higher unemployment where the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in Britain exist without knowing when the next payday might come.

Hundreds of constituents have contacted me about zero hours contracts. People tell me about waiting for a call or turning up to the workplace day after day, only to find that there is no work, yet their contracts make it difficult to find alternative employment or to claim job seekers.  I have heard examples of people making childcare arrangements or paying for transport to work and then waiting for hours before being told they are not needed. Other people have told me that because of zero hours contracts they are unable to get a bank overdraft, a mortgage or car finance.

The Bill will prohibit the use of zero hours contracts.  It is only likely to be passed if the government allocate time to allow its passage.  I hope the Bill will become law, whether that is now or later depends on Parliament. I also want to generate a debate about how we can better protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers from being kept in a permanently fragile and uncertain state of zero hours ’employment’.

The use of zero hours contracts has become so widespread that they are even common in Parliament.  The House of Lords employs 26 catering staff and 19 people working for Hansard on zero hours.

On Monday I will also present The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (Extension of Powers) Bill that will extend the powers of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to enable it to regulate employment agencies in all sectors of the economy.

When I was elected I promised to take action on employment agencies. In Corby there is a high concentration of agencies and many operate in the food and distribution sectors where the ‘Swedish derogations’ apply (opt outs of the Agency Workers Directive).

Corby front page - employment agenciesIn May 2013, a 12-person taskforce from HMRC and Employment Agency Standards carried out an inspection of 34 employment agencies in Corby. They found over 70 breaches of the law including many cases of unfair deductions and other issues with the minimum wage which led HMRC to estimate that £100,000 is owed to local workers.  This is now being followed up with enforcement action.

Currently the role of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is limited to only certain sectors of the economy, such as cockle picking.  The Bill will widen their powers to enforce the law and promote higher standards amongst all employment agencies.

Employment Agencies are a huge problem in many towns across Britain. There are some that follow the law but many are ripping off workers.  I have heard many cases of bad practice in my constituency and sadly this has been confirmed by the recent inspection visits. It is common for workers to be laid of just before the 12 week qualifying period for more employment rights or to be charged for providing their own protective equipment or faces long delays waiting to be paid.  When over 70 breaches of the law are found in my area it is just a snapshot of the scale of this problem across Britain.  Giving the Gangmasters Licensing Authority these important new powers will help to tackle the problem.

This Bill will also give the Gangmasters Licensing Authority powers to regulate advertising of vacancies overseas.  I am aware of many agencies who only advertise abroad without giving local workers a proper opportunity to apply for jobs.

As well as this national action I am working locally with the council and with a wide range of local organisations including good practice employment agencies, charities and businesses, to develop a local Code of Practice.


11 Comments on “My Zero Hours Bill will protect lowest paid and most vulnerable workers”

  1. Thank you Andy for fighting against the exploitation of workers and the increasing casualisation of the UK labour force. Insecure employment is hampering the recovery of the UK economy – these workers can make no plans for the future, no major purchasing decisions and can’t get mortgages; most don’t have pensions or savings, many are pressurised into opting out of the Working Time regulations and ignoring health and safety practice at work. We need to level the playing field between employers and employees – stopping zero hours contracts and closing the loopholes in the equal treatment of agency workers legislation is a big step in the right direction.

  2. […] sentence. But this week the Labour MP for Corby & East Northamptonshire, Andy Sawford, tabled not one but two PMBs, each of which provides a timely opportunity to focus much-needed political attention on an […]

  3. John Davidson, Rugby says:

    Andy having read an article concerning ‘Sports Direct Zero-Hours terms under Fire’ in Mondays (29th July 2013) Guardian I looked you up on the web. Can I say how much I support your stand on this subject, is it not time for own party to come out from the top and say we will ban this sort of exploitation when we win the next general election! A young 21 year old I know has just got a job with Clarks the shoe people and is working a 4 hour contract week. She was told she always be working more hours! So its not just zero hours we need to get ride of.;

  4. Andy Howell says:

    About time. This is a nasty and exploitive practice that preys on the goodwill o those who are out of work, under employed and needing cash.

    Good luck.

  5. […] Andy Sawford is looking for your support — you can learn more about his campaign and bill here. […]

  6. emmaannhardy says:

    Good luck. I think the bill is a great idea. This is an appalling practice and something that the Labour Party should be fighting against. If Labour and the Trade Unions can’t fight for these exploited people no one will.

  7. […] friend Andy Sawford has brought forward a private members bill that would outlaw zero-hours […]

  8. […] have already introduced a Bill to change the law.  I will keep my eye on the implementation of Universal Credit but the signs are that there are […]

  9. […] response to this I have two tabled two Private Members Bills in Parliament.  One that seeks to end the exploitation of zero hours contracts, the other that […]

  10. S Kelly says:

    I would like to wish you the best of luck with this bill.
    0 hour contracts are exploitation of the worst kind.
    The fact that our government is using them is appauling and demonstrates their opinion of the people of this country.
    Have you thought of identifying the companies that are now using these contracts so we can boycott their products ?
    I am sure that if this information was published on the web, we could exert some consumer power.
    Good luck and well done !!

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