We need better employment rights!

Over recent decades, the power imbalance between employers and employees has been increasingly and deliberately skewed in employers’ favour. We have seen successive Acts that restricted workers’ rights, increased legal barriers to trade unions taking action, and cut Legal Aid to limit employees’ access to justice. We have also seen stagnancy in real wages, increasing job insecurity, and widened use of zero hours’ contracts and bogus self-employment (such as Uber claiming their taxi drivers were self-employed, the subject of high-profile legal challenges).

In this context, working class people are often left moving between underpaid, undervalued and insecure work, having to supplement their income with inadequate working tax credits or benefits, and struggling to reach higher incomes without forking out large sums for further study or professional qualifications – from their own pocket or by taking out expensive credit. This is particularly intense for workers who suffer any kind of discrimination, including women, people with disabilities, migrants, BAME communities and LGBT people. Across sectors, there is still frequently pay disparity for those working in comparable jobs due to historic and present-day discrimination, even setting aside harassment and bullying along these lines.

In June 2021, research found that around a fifth of UK adults had less than £100 in savings and people in the UK owed £1,742.7 billion, leaving workers under financial pressure to cope with stressful or unpleasant conditions at work. Unsurprisingly in this climate, workers’ health suffers: mental-health related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. Trade union membership has been rising in the last few years, but only after decades of decline, as well as legislative restrictions on their power (e.g. the Trade Union Act 2016).

GMLC’s Employment Service and Campaigns

In 2021, GMLC set up an Employment Advice service to give people advice about their rights at work and to support litigants in person attempting to navigate the employment tribunal system without representation. However, the package of legal rights on offer to UK employees is minimal, with many rights only starting after 2 years’ service. Even where a claim may be possible to make for lost wages or discrimination, employment tribunals have such a large backlog that it can be years before many cases are heard.

Legal solutions are, therefore, not enough to ensure workers are safe from unfair treatment in work. We need to fight for better pay and working conditions, better employment rights, and better access to justice to enforce them. GMLC strongly encourages all employees to join a trade union to campaign and fight collectively for improvements to conditions. The TUC can help you find the right union for you here.

Affiliate your union branch to GMLC

GMLC works with TUC and union branches across Manchester and the North West to support promote unions, build campaigns, and educate people on their rights. You can affiliate your branch to GMLC here, which will entitle you to:

  • Our regular newsletter and information about upcoming events.
  • Acknowledgement as an affiliate in our literature for public events, as well as our website and annual reports.
  • Invitations to our relevant campaign and development meetings.

We are also keen to develop good working relationships with affiliates to work together on key campaigns.

 Some of our employment campaigning so far:

  • We produced resources as part of our Covid Survival Guide on the furlough scheme and workers’ rights during the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • We have produced resources on Long Covid and employment rights to give workers and trade union reps guidance;
  • We have conducted survey research into the effect of Long Covid on people’s working lives and made recommendations on changes to policy and law that would help Long Covid sufferers;
  • We have worked with groups such as Care and Support Workers Organise to produce resources for care workers facing dismissal due to the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination;
  • We have given free advice clinics with the Bakers Union in Wigan across early 2022;
  • We have supported Trades Union Congress branches in their work getting local people into appropriate trade unions.
Image shows a word cloud visualising the words used most frequently in the Long Covid and Work survey when we asked about how employers treated them when they got Long Covid. The biggest words are 'work', 'feel', 'Covid', 'difficult', 'hard', 'longer', 'unable' and 'working'.

Long Covid and Work: Survey Results & Research Data

Click here or on the image above to download our Long Covid and Work survey results from August 2021.

Graphic reads "Care workers Know your rights on Mandatory Vaccinations" with the CASWO and GMLC logos

Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccination Factsheet for Care Workers

Click here or on the image above to download our leaflet for care workers answering real legal queries from care workers about the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for CQC-registered care home staff, introduced from November 2021.

Image reads 'Covid-19' made from pills and pill boxes.

Guidance on Long Covid and your rights

Click here or on the image above to go to our guidance on Long Covid and your employment rights, written July 2021. We have also written guidance on workplace safety and Covid following the removal of Covid legal mitigations (March 2022) here.

Read more from our employment campaigning…

Workers Can Win: an interview with Ian Allinson

GMLC interviewed Ian Allinson, author of upcoming book Workers Can Win: A Guide to Organising At Work. The book intends to offer practical support for workers to get involved with…

Struggles facing litigants in person: John’s story

With the majority of areas of employment law now ‘out of scope’ for legal aid, meaning employees cannot access free advice and representation for most types of employment case, many…

Why Judicial Review needs to be protected

Judicial review is a key form of legal claim that enables people to challenge unfair government policies or breaches of human rights. This government’s Judicial Review Bill is an attack…

APPG’s Long Covid report and findings: do they go far enough?

On 30 November 2021, GMLC gave expert evidence on Long Covid, employment and welfare rights to the APPG on Coronavirus. Latest estimates suggest 1.5m people in the UK are living…