photo credit: Martin Pettitt via photopin cc

Britain’s largest union has described the government’s decision to ban zero-hours exclusivity clauses as “a joke”.

Unite says the Tories have “missed the key point that zero hours confer fear and misery of those forced into them”. Zero-hours contracts offer “no security, no protection and little dignity”, says Unite’s Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner.

“With millions now declared ‘self-employed’, underemployed and insecure at work, we believe that the scale of workplace insecurity is vastly underestimated by the Tory government and needs to be addressed.”

New rules banning exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts came into force today (Tuesday 26 May). The move stops businesses preventing staff from working for other employers.

The changes were first announced by the former Business Secretary Vince Cable under the previous Tory-led coalition. Mr Cable lost his Twickenham seat of 18 years in the general election, to the Conservative candidate Tania Mathias.

Mr Turner says businesses are failing to create “decent jobs” for Britain’s workforce, which could lead to “serious and deep social and economic consequences for our country”.

Rather than “token measures”, the government “ought to be looking at why so many people are facing desperate times at work”, says Mr Turner.

The government should be “forcing employers to pay a decent wage for guaranteed hours rather than exploiting corporate welfare as a way of subsidising exploitation”, he added.

Focusing attention on employers who use exclusivity clauses within zero-hours contracts “does nothing to turn an insecure job into a better one”.

“The truth is that employers just won’t call back people who turned down work and the right to be exploited by four or five employers is no right at all.”

People who “just want one decent job to support them and their families” are forced to “juggle two and three insecure, zero or short hour jobs to get by”, says Mr Turner.

Workers are looking to the the government to “create decent, secure jobs, paying decent pay for guaranteed hours not stack the dice even further against them”.

He added: “Token measures like this do little to address the misery of hand-to-mouth, wait by the phone jobs which are a curse for the people relying on them and their families.”

Business Minister Nick Boles said: “Banning these clauses will give working people the freedom to take other work opportunities and more control over their work hours and income.

“It brings financial security one step closer for lots of families.”