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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said that the UK government has broken its promise to boost workers’ rights with a new employment bill that has failed to materialise.
The union body accused prime minister Boris Johnson's government of “turning its back” on working people and said it instead "sided with bad bosses" after omitting the employment bill from the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.
The government first announced it would introduce a the bill to improve people’s rights at work in 2019, but although it has committed to the bill on at least 20 occasions, the legislation has been ditched, according to the TUC.
“No employment bill means vital rights that ministers had promised — like default flexible working, fair tips and protection from pregnancy discrimination — risk being ditched for good," said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“And it means no action on the scourge of insecure work and ending exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire."
The government promised that a new employment bill would cover several vital policies which now risk being completely abandoned, the TUC said.
These include ensuring that all tips go to workers, introducing a new right for all workers to request more predictable contracts, making flexible working the default unless employers have good reason not to and the creation of a new single enforcement body offering greater protections for workers.
The government has also failed to deliver on promises to support working parents and carers, including extending redundancy protections to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination, allowing parents to take extended paid leave for neonatal care and introducing a new legal entitlement to one week’s leave for unpaid carers.
“By shelving the employment bill, ministers have sent a signal that they are happy for rogue employers to ride roughshod over workers’ rights," said O’Grady.
“Enough is enough. This is a government that just doesn’t get it – from the cost of living emergency to the insecure work epidemic.
“People can’t wait for greater rights and security at work — they need it now.”
The TUC also called attention to the government's promise to make employers responsible for preventing sexual harassment. The union body said this "risks falling by the wayside without the employment bill, as the policy needs primary legislation to carry it forward".
In the notes to the 2019 Queen’s Speech, the government pledged to bring forward the employment bill to protect and enhance workers’ rights post-Brexit, promote fairness in the workplace, strengthen workers’ ability to get redress for poor treatment, offer greater protections for workers by prioritising fairness in the workplace, introduce better support for working families and do more to protect those in low-paid work and the gig economy.
Without the employment bill, these "vital rights" risk being ditched “for good”, according to the TUC.
The union body is also calling on the government to bring in stronger employment legislation that boosts worker protections and stops companies firing on the spot in order to prevent "another P&O-type scandal".
In March P&O Ferries fired 800 of its crew members with immediate effect, turning to cheap agency staff to operate its ships in a bid to shore up its finances.
O’Grady said the government's seafarer minimum wage enforcement plans were "feeble and likely unworkable".
“The government has done nothing to tackle the most flagrant labour abuse in years by P&O," she said.
The plans include giving UK ports the power to refuse access to ferry companies that don’t pay the minimum wage. Checks by HMRC inspectors are then meant to identify ferry operators operating in UK waters that are not compliant with UK minimum wage rules.