While Scotland now has a lower proportion of workers on zero-hours contracts than the UK average, too many people aren’t given the job security they deserve from their employer.
Across the UK use of zero hour contracts, unpaid ‘trial’ periods, or bogus self-employment contracts are on the rise.
The power to change this lies at Westminster. Yet it’s clear that the UK government has no intention of taking the action required to deliver job security for all. That’s not good enough.
Here’s how we’re working to tackle job insecurity and unfair employment practices.
Far too often zero hours contracts are used, not to provide flexibility, but to exploit workers. This can mean denying employees regular or sufficient working hours or penalising them for not being available to work.
We believe the exploitative use of these contracts, where they are used just to avoid giving workers the protections they are due, should be banned.
In government, we don’t directly employ anyone on zero hours contracts. We’ve also introduced new guidance to ensure that companies bidding for public sector contracts don’t use exploitative zero hours contracts. And we’re encouraging businesses to commit to not using exploitative contracts through the Scottish Business Pledge.
More people are now working jobs where they are paid based on the work they do, rather than an hourly rate. This often means they don’t get the same workplace protections from their employer as permanent employees. The Tories have been slow to react to this rise in the ‘gig economy’ and the action they propose to take doesn’t go far enough.
All workers should have appropriate rights and protections, including holiday and sick pay. That’s why SNP MP Chris Stephens has introduced a Bill at Westminster that would ensure better workplace protection for gig economy workers.
The SNP Scottish Government has set up a group of experts to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination in the workplace. This will look into the recruitment and retention of pregnant women. Importantly, it will look at how to increase flexible working for women returning from maternity leave.
At Westminster, we support strengthening the law to protect women from discriminatory redundancies and practices. And we’ll fight any attempt to erode the rights of pregnant women and new mothers afforded under EU laws following Brexit.
Some employers require new recruits to work without pay for a ‘trial period’. This is often exploitative to young workers and migrants. SNP MP Stewart McDonald has proposed a Bill at Westminster that, if passed, would require workers to be paid for this period, regardless of whether or not a full offer of employment is provided.
The SNP has consistently argued for the full devolution of employment and equalities law, including minimum wage powers. If the Tories won’t take action at Westminster, we’ll get on with the job in the Scottish Parliament.