Covid-19: Unite CEC branch demands equal treatment for agency, zero-hour contract and arms length organisations’ staff during pandemic

Forcing some workers to rely on statutory sick pay is a risk to all—and deeply unfair

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Unite has requested that the City of Edinburgh Council follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and treats agency, ALEOs and zero hours contract staff equally during COVID-19.

Concerns had been raised by our members, both on permanent and temporary contracts, that a permanent member of staff will be protected financially if they need to self-isolate or shield according to UK government advice. However, the same financial protection is not been offered to temporary and agency staff, creating a financial disincentive for this staff group to exclude themselves from the workplace should they need to. For example, agency staff brought in to cover staff absence, such as in refuse collection, are paid only statutory sick pay (SSP)—£95.85 per week—if they have to self isolate or shield, whereas permanent colleagues are paid their contractual entitlement for sick pay.

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Scottish Affairs Select Committee report on the future of work

In March, the Scottish Affairs Select Committee published The future of working practices in Scotland. This report reflects on the Taylor review on modern working practices, which covered the gig economy and precarious work, and looks at changes in the traditional workplace, and the particular impact of these developments on Scotland.

The report contains recommendations for the UK Government:

  • Extend a written statement of terms and conditions to all workers.
  • Clarify employment status in primary legislation.
  • Give workers who have been on zero hours contracts for 12 months the right to request a contract which reflects actual hours worked.
  • Consider a higher minimum wage for hours which are not guaranteed.
  • Assess the extent of unfair and illegal employment practices in Scotland.
  • Stronger penalties, including fines, for repeat or serious breaches of employment legislation, and expand “naming and shaming” to all non-accidental breaches of employment rights.
  • Work with unions to establish the extent of blacklisting and stop it.

The report was informed by evidence given by Robin McAlpine, Director of the Common Weal, and Professor Mike Danson of the Jimmy Reid Foundation.