Sunday May 9, 2021
For the road ahead

Millions lack basic protections if they lose their jobs


Millions of workers lack basic protections if they lose their jobs in the coming months. New analysis shows that 7.5 million employees began this year with no protection from unfair dismissal. That's one in four workers!

Under current law workers must be employed for two years to qualify for unfair dismissal protection. URTU says this should be a day one right. 

People working in industries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitality and retail, are most at risk of missing out on key protections. Nearly half of hospitality staff and a third of people working in the retail, wholesale and vehicle repair sector have not been in their jobs long enough to qualify for unfair dismissal rights.  

BME and young workers are most at risk of not being protected from unfair dismissal.These figures are deeply worrying with unemployment set to rise further.   

The government promised in 2019 that it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people's protections at work.  But there has been no sign of the legislation.  Ministers instead began reviewing hard-won rights from the EU with the view to potentially watering them down. 

All workers should have unfair dismissal rights from day one in the job. 

The analysis shows that even returning to the previous qualifying period for unfair dismissal of 12 months would benefit 3.6 million workers. 

‘Levelling up' agenda

URTU says that improving workers' rights and pay is a key test of Boris Johnson's much vaunted ‘levelling up' agenda. The government must do everything possible to stop mass unemployment. This includes strengthening protections at work so people can't be sacked unfairly. Nobody should be treated like disposable labour. 

If the government is serious about levelling up Britain it must level up workers' rights, not water down hard-won rights from the EU. 

People shouldn't have to wait for two years to be protected from unfair dismissal. They should be day one rights for everybody.

URTU is calling on the government to: 

  • Reform the qualifying period for unfair dismissal 
  • Ban zero-hours contracts 
  • Bring in genuine two-way flexibility by giving workers a default right to work flexibly from the first day in the job, and all jobs to be advertised as flexible 
  • Create good quality jobs by fast-tracking £85bn of spending on green infrastructure 
  • Establish a national recovery council, made up of businesses and unions alongside the government, to steer the recovery effort. 


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