This month, the Resolution Foundation released its briefing, ‘A new settlement for the low paid’ setting out proposals it describes as forming “a significant yet achievable programme of change” to benefit the lowest paid workers in a post-coronavirus economy.
The recommendations are wide-ranging and include the following:
- Further increases in the minimum wage, subject to the advice of the Low Pay Commission, and increases of the fines for employers for underpayment of the minimum wage.
- Workers having the right to a contract which reflects the actual hours they work, two week's advance notice of work schedules, the right to compensation where shifts are cancelled without reasonable notice and the right to request a longer-hours contract (in a similar way to the current right to make a flexible working request for shorter hours).
- Workers of large firms having the right to choose how regularly they are paid (for example electing for weekly rather than monthly payments).
- Extending eligibility for statutory sick pay to those who earn less than £120 a week.
- Reducing the time for a worker to become eligible for protection from unfair dismissal from two years to one.
- Giving unions the right to enter workplaces to raise awareness among workers.
- Establishing “21st century Wage Boards” in some industries where there is “clear need of improved standards” such as social care.
Many of these touch on similar themes already explored within the government’s Good Work Plan under Theresa May. However, whether or not these recommendations will be taken up by the current government may largely depend on the direction it decides to take in stimulating the economy as it emerges from the worst (we hope) of the pandemic. For example, whilst waiting days and the circumstances in which SSP can be claimed for have been widened to account for those needing to self-isolate, calls to make lower paid workers eligible for SSP have consistently been resisted, suggesting this is not something the government has an appetite to explore.
This paper sets out a significant yet achievable programme of change across five areas that, taken together with a higher minimum wage, would amount to a new settlement for Britain’s low-paid workers. At its core is the idea that improving the circumstances of low-paid labour is not just about a higher price tag for that labour, but about showing respect to and providing dignity for the people doing it.