MEP Siôn Simon gives his views on the issue of workers’ conditions in the 21st century in the context of the Commission’s legislative proposals for more transparent and predictable working conditions.

The exponential growth of online platforms like Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon has created a new challenge for employment rights. And the Europe-level response to these challenges have been slow to develop and poorly designed.  After 27 years of the Written Statement Directive (WSD), a revision is long overdue. The Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive will revise the WSD.

Positive elements in the Directive
Overall, I welcome the Commission’s proposals for a new Directive. It will provide important protection and new and clearer rights for vulnerable workers in atypical and precarious work.
First, from day one, new start- ers are guaranteed a document explicitly outlining the conditions of the working relationship. At the moment, employees can expect to wait two months before seeing such a document.

It will provide important protection and new and clearer rights for vulnerable workers in atypical and precarious work.

Second, the draft Directive seeks to incorporate a broad definition of ‘worker’, derived from EU case law, extending the scope of the new rules to more people. As they work currently, the rules are limited to a relatively narrow definition of ‘employer’.
The Directive will tackle unfair terms for new starters: employ- ers will not be able to charge for mandatory training sessions, put workers on excessive probationary period and, crucially, employers will not be able to demand exclusivity clauses in contracts without good reason.
Nevertheless, much remains to be done.

Zero hours contracts are a growing problem
I want to see a ban on zero hours contracts (ZHC) which signif- icantly weaken the rights of working people and adversely affect their work-life balance. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, there were 1.8 million zero hours contracts intheUKin2018anda pollof workers on zero-hour contracts commissioned by the UK’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) published in 2018 found that:
More than half (51%) of zero hour workers have had shifts cancelled at less than 24 hours’ notice.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) have been offered work at less than 24 hours’ notice.
And alarmingly, around a third of those on zero hour contracts (35 per cent) have been threatened with not being given shifts in the future if they turn down work.
Only 25% say they prefer being on zero hour contracts

I hope to see the European Parliament and the Council address these problems and strengthen the Directive so that trade union workplace representatives can better inform workers of their rights under this new Directive.

Directive needs to be strengthened
These workers rarely get sick, redundancy or holiday pay. Nearly half of them do not get written terms and conditions and hardly any get a permanent contract after consistently working the same pattern of hours. This is why there is scepticism that the proposed ‘right to request’ regular hours after a year on the job – as suggested by the Taylor Review and recommended by the Government – will change things for the better. Such a right to request would not fundamentally change the power dynamics where a vulnerable worker will remain at the mercy of the employer.
Furthermore, a written state- ment should be provided before any work has started. Apart from anything else, who wants to spend their first day in a job reading the terms of their employment while adapting to a new job at the same time?
I hope to see the European Parliament and the Council address these problems and strengthen the Directive so that trade union workplace representatives can better inform workers of their rights under this new Directive.

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We must make sure that the rights in the Directive are not watered down and we must allow Member States to put in place more protection for workers that goes beyond the provisions of the Directive. The definitions in this Directive should extend its provisions to the greatest number of people. Your rights as a worker should not be different because your employer is a small company.
Working people cannot wait any longer for better con- ditions. The new proposals from the Commission are a step in the right direction but there is a lot of work left to do and not much time.