The zero-hours gig

Just listened to an interview and Q&A with Matthew Taylor, who’s written a report for the government on these approaches to employment (or not, depending on your legal advisor). Although he claims an intention to protect the low paid and vulnerable, his main thrust seemed to be avoiding loading too much regulation on small and start-up businesses. While there are people who find these options suit them well, there are many more who are ripped off by them. As I’ve written before, ‘the flexible workforce’ means one that bends over so it can be screwed more easily. Whether or not there is genuine choice in taking such a job was raised but didn’t touch two key points. One is pressure from the Job Centre to take such a job or lose benefits; the other is that once on a zero-hours contract or self-employed, you’re not entitled to Jobseekers Allowance and virtually impossible to claim anything else because your hours, and therefore income, are unpredictable. I’ve met this when driven to sign on with a temp agency and found myself being hired from Tuesday to Thursday, laid off, hired from Tuesday to Thursday … etc. I managed to bail out of that but these days it’s a lot harder. What makes that even more of a rat’s nest now is the time it takes for your benefits to be processed, if you are entitled to claim, since computers have replaced paperwork in the Job Centres. Instead of a couple of days, it can now take 6 weeks or more. I’ve just learned that this situation will get worse because the misgovernment is planning to close about 1 in 10 of those Job Centres. What a surprise …

Meanwhile the self-employed and small-business owners have long been hard-line Tory supporters and see themselves as the most persecuted section of the population. It never seems to occur to them that they get turned over by Tory governments probably more than by Labour. It would be good if it was made easier for people to start a business, if they want to, such as letting them claim unemployment benefit or whatever until the business starts making a profit. There is too much regulation for small businesses but that could be eased by giving them quick access to the laws and regulations small employers need to me aware of and by providing more accessible legal protection and redress for workers. What we have now is a licence to rob and avoid responsibilities to staff.

RA 12.7.17