Unions warn against watering down Labour reforms of workers’ rights and ban on zero-hours contracts


Union leaders have warned business groups against pushing Keir Starmer to water down Labour’s plans to introduce sweeping reforms of workers’ rights and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

As the Labour leader comes under pressure from industry to scale back its shake-up of employment laws, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the plans were “extremely popular” with voters and good for the economy.

Calling on employers to “get on board” with Labour’s plans, the unions’ umbrella body published analysis showing as many as two-thirds of workers on zero-hours contracts had been with their current employer for more than a year.

It said that this showed the overwhelming majority of workers on the contracts are “stuck” in a position of insecure employment, which was leading to bad employers “parking workers on zero-hours contracts for years on end”.

It found a minority of zero-hours contract workers were on them as a stopgap, temporary measure, with as few as 7% having been with their current employer less than three months.

The TUC’s intervention comes after the president of the CBI lobby group, Rupert Soames, said this month that it was pushing Labour to soften its plans amid business concerns the measures could undermine economic growth.

Labour has pledged to ban zero-hours contracts, end fire-and-rehire practices and introduce “day-one” employment rights as part of a “new deal for working people” within the first 100 days of taking office.

Although business leaders are understood to be largely supportive of the party’s ambitions, some lobby groups have questioned whether a rushed introduction of the plan could cause “unintended consequences” and hurt the economy.

Ahead of the general election, Labour has scaled back its £28bn green investment package and sought to win favour among business leaders by pledging not to increase corporation tax or reverse the government’s decision to scrap a cap on bankers’ bonuses.

However, the TUC said strengthening workers’ rights was a vote-winning policy among the electorate. Recent polling carried out on behalf of the union body in the autumn showed almost two-thirds of UK adults support a ban on zero-hours contracts, including 60% of 2019 Conservative voters.