How Brexit will affect three
million people doing
'insecure' work

 The TUC estimates that 3.2 million people are currently in ‘insecure’ work, that is, a temporary or irregular job. These include 810,000 people on zero-hours contracts; 730,00 seasonal workers and a further 1.7 million who class themselves as ‘self-employed,’ who could be receiving less than the national living wage.

Some companies argue that this offers flexibility to its workforce, as the contractor ‘chooses’ when and for how long they are employed. But often these jobs don’t comply with health and safety regulations, nor offer entitlements like holiday leave or sick pay. They are most prevalent in the hospitality and retail industries, residential care homes and, surprisingly, within education.

This ‘grey’ or ‘shadow’ sector (so-called because they are not taxed and are hidden from official employment statistics) is made up of mostly women, people from ethnic minorities and those who live outside London. Overall one in eight black workers are in casual roles versus one in 20 white workers. Shadow jobs make up 67 per cent of all new vacancies in the North East of England, compared with 17 per cent in the capital.

What does Brexit have to do with it?

Unlike the rest of Europe, Britain has increased its numbers of self-employed workers between 2008-2015. This doesn’t mean that we have been creating new jobs while other countries haven’t; Germany had the strongest employment growth of any country over that time but the amount of its temporary and self-employed workers fell. Agency workers in that country, as in France, must be employed for a fixed term of up to 18 months. In the Netherlands, there are regulations about minimum paid hours.

Much of our employment legislation was introduced because we were in the EU, and although the UK government has promised to carry over all of these benefits after Brexit, it is not clear whether the laws will be easily passed by a government that wants to be seen to be asserting its sovereignty and has already allowed a ‘gig economy’ – one-off paid tasks like courier deliveries or minicab journeys rather than a formal shift pattern – to flourish.

Another concern is for certain EU nationals who may have been living in the UK for years, working as cleaners or doing domestic repairs for cash in hand. They must register for ‘settled status’ once Britain leaves the EU. But they may not be aware of this obligation, or able to supply the correct paperwork to prove their residency because they have been in a ‘grey’ job.

Those opposed to planned registration fear that without the correct documentation, these European nationals could face discrimination or worse, another Windrush-style scandal.

The chief executive of the East European Resource Centre in London, Barbara Drozdowicz, which helps people avoid exploitation, believes that hundreds of thousands originally from Romania, Poland and Bulgaria could be affected.

‘Because the registration process is going to be highly dependent on HMRC evidence, people who get paid cash will be vulnerable and most likely exploited. Some of them will be sub-letting flats, so won’t have contracts with landlords or tax records. The Home Office is telling people about settled status on Facebook, YouTube and Spotify. That is not the way to get people interested,’ she warned.

The Home Office said: ‘We are well aware of the challenges of ensuring that three million EU citizens and their family member living here understand the need to apply and have the ability to. That is why we have launched a national awareness campaign, and are planning a range of support for vulnerable groups.’

 

 

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