5 A threat to health and safety |
68. We have already described how zero
hours workers have no protection against dismissal which, when
combined with a need to work, we believe makes them less likely
to challenge their employer. Zero hours workers are also less
likely to receive the same level of training and professional
support as permanent employees.
These factors have clear implications for health and safety as
we discuss in the examples below.
69. We heard how employers can 'benefit'
from a compliant workforce that is too afraid of the consequences
to raise any concerns including those relating to health and safety.
The RMT told us that for both rail and the offshore industry:
there is a clear safety implication
for both the workers on zero-hours contracts other employees.
This manifests itself through bad practice, insufficient reporting
mechanisms in the event of an accident or an instruction to undertake
unsafe work, insufficient protection from victimisation for the
zero-hours worker, a lack of familiarity with colleagues in a
safety critical industry and often gang working, all of which
are compounded by a two-tier workforce.
70. In 2011, the Rail Safety and Standards
Board reported that between 2005 and 2010 up to 600 accidents
at Network Rail were not notified to the company, mainly because
of a conscious decision by workers and employees. The reasons
were "fearful" of reporting accidents and incidents
in case they were marked out as trouble makers and lost their
were discouraged by the prospect of being named and shamed on
managers were "fearful" of travelling to London for
a discussion with a company director;
were under pressure to meet accident targets set by Network Rail;
staff on zero-hour contracts believed they would not be re-employed.
|Box 13: Offshore worker
A worker who was bogus self-employed raised serious safety concerns and was stopped from working because the agency felt under pressure not to employ him. It took intervention from the RMT for worker be able to work for the agency again.
Source: Mick Cash, RMT (Q174)
71. Concerns about the use of zero hours
contracts within the rail infrastructure sector led the Office
of Rail Regulation (ORR) to carry out targeted inspection work
in 2011-12. The ORR looked in particular at staff competence,
fatigue management and provision of safety equipment. According
to Ian Prosser,chief inspector of railways and director of railway
safety at the ORR:
One of the specific findings of
the Labour Only Supply Companies investigation carried out by
ORR was that, although the widespread use of notionally 'self-employed'
staff on zero hours contracts has some immediate and short term
benefits with regard to staff flexibility and costs, it has a
generally negative effect on the attitudes and behaviour of those
involved, which is not conducive to the development of a safe
72. The RMT state that Network Rail
Scotland staff have raised concerns about the skill levels of
the workers provided by labour suppliers and the use of these
workers on zero hours contracts to replace full-time Network Rail
staff. The Rail
Accident Investigation Branch inquiry into a fatal accident in
December 2012 recommended that Network Rail address the safety
risk arising from using agency staff in safety critical roles.
The inquiry found that the agency did not have the competence
to assess the performance of anyone acting in key safety roles
and that there was "no legal or contractual requirement from
Network Rail for agencies to develop a training and development
strategy or to engage in close monitoring of the performance of
the staff that they hire for work". It concluded that a contractual
employer/employee relationship might have prevented the incident.
73. Network Rail are reviewing their
use of zero hours workers. Following the incident in December
2012, Network Rail stated that it would introduce a system whereby
staff undertaking safety-critical roles would be employed directly
by the main contractor or Network Rail, and would not be on a
welcome Network Rail's acknowledgement of the risks of using zero
hours contracts in safety-critical roles. Zero hours contracts
have been shown to be incompatible with running a safe railway
and Network Rail must demonstrably reduce their dependence on
them, both in its role as a direct employer and indirectly through
its use of contractors.
74. We believe that the stability
of work and funding offered by a five-year control period means
that Network Rail does not have a business need for the flexibility
that zero hours contracts provide. Its only justification in using
them must therefore be to reduce costs. This is not sufficient
reason to put the safety of workers in jeopardy and to deny them
the opportunity to be an employee and receive the employment rights
that go with that status. Network Rail should take more work in-house
and make greater use of fixed-term and part-time contracts.
75. The offshore industry is a major
part of the Scottish economy. Jake Molloy, Regional Organiser
at the RMT, described how "we came very, very close to a
major, major incident west of Shetland in the last month".
The incident concerned occurred in February 2014 and had the potential
to capsize a link putting 150 people at risk:
The workforce tried to stop the
job the but management pushed on and pushed ahead [...] where
you have a culture of fear and concern, especially among a group
of agency or zero hours people, they are more likely to go ahead
and do the job under that instruction whereas permanent staff,
well trained staff, well-educated staff are more likely to try
to stop a job. [...] I have the testimony of the elected safety
rep on the day for that incident I talked about. He tried to the
best of his ability to stop the job but management just went ahead
and did it anyway and the rest of the crew complied.
Mr Molloy explained that people in insecure
employment can be so desperate for work that they are willing
to work at any cost: "we have to educate workers to challenge
and to say no in those circumstances".
76. Zero hours contracts are used extensively
in the care sector, particularly by third and private sector employers.
Across the UK 307,000 care workers (one in five) are on zero hours
contracts, 20,000 of whom work in Scotland. Scotland has an aging
population which, together with cuts in local authorities' budgets,
is putting pressure on those tasked with delivering care to the
people who need it. UNISON argue that the rise in the use of zero
hours contracts in the care sector is leading to worse services
for the elderly and some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Research undertaken by UNISON has indicated that zero hours contracts
are linked to falling standards of care and disquiet amongst the
workforce at their capacity to deliver care to a necessary standard.
|Box 14: Private sector care provider
I enjoy the job I do. I am a support worker for people with mental health problems. I am very experienced and worked as a registered learning disabilities nurse in various settings before taking time out. I feel that I don't get the opportunity to offer continuity of care to the people I am caring for, I have a lot of good ideas but can't get a proper run at it because continuity and consistency is an important part of care work. I very often get phoned at 7am to go in at 8am that day for a shift. This makes it very difficult to plan activities with service users because I am just popping in and out randomly as far as they are concerned. Many people with mental health problems need predictability and future planning with plenty of time to do very simple things that we all take for granted and I cannot commit to a day that I would like to do something such as going on an outing or preparing a meal from scratch or going for a cycle. It is quite frustrating.
Source: Anonymous (Unite the Union written evidence)
77. Care staff are expected to deal
with complex needs but UNISON report that staff on zero hours
contracts are seldom considered a priority for training.Dave
Watson told us he believed that zero hours contracts were also
responsible for a high turnover of staff within the care sector
which, together with more variable hours for workers and last-minute
scheduling, undermined the provision of continuous care to patients.
If you are an elderly person and
you have people essentially providing very intimate care for you:
bathing you, changing, all sorts of things, to have a different
person traipsing through the door two or three times a week is
absolutely appalling. What you want is the same person on that
Allied Healthcare, who employ 1,300
healthcare workers in Scotland and 15,000 across the UK, confirmed
that part of raising standards across the care sector "has
to be care providers committing to their staff."
Allied Healthcare are now in the process of abolishing compulsory
zero hours contracts within their business.
78. As with the rail and offshore sectors
described above, UNISON explained how zero hours contracts can
impact on the safety and wellbeing of workers in the care industry
and their clients.
Zero hours contracts can work against maintaining standards as
staff feel unable to raise issues relating to quality of care,
and even abuse, for fear of repercussions against them from the
Watson described to us the reactions of a focus group held by
UNISON to questions on safety and abuse:
In the focus groups I asked them,
"What if you saw health and safety abuses or health and safety
risks, would you report them?" The general answer from people
was, "We wouldn't be thanked for doing that so generally
we don't do it", which I was obviously pretty appalled at.
"What if you saw elder abuse,
for example, if you saw abuse by a member of the family or by
another care worker or anybody else involved with the family on
that basis?" The answer from the same group, I asked several
of them, they all nodded and they said, "We probably wouldn't
raise that either, Dave, unless it was very, very serious. The
reason is if we went back to the base and reported this we wouldn't
be thanked by the company or the organisation involved."
79. Zero hours workers have a right
to work in a safe environment and must be able to raise concerns
without fear of losing their job. Despite a number of reports
detailing the risks of zero hours contracts in safety-critical
industries, the Government's consultation on zero hours proposes
nothing to protect workers who speak out. In response to this
Report, the Government must set out the steps it will take to
ensure that individuals who question the conditions in which they
are expected to work and the quality of service they are able
to provide, are protected from the actions of unscrupulous employers.
117 UNISON (ZHC0015) Back
University and College Union (ZHC002) Back
RMT (ZHC004) Back
BBC News, Network Rail staff 'fear' led to false safety records,
25 January 2011 Back
Letter to the General Secretary of the RMT from the Director of
Rail Safety at the Office of Rail Regulation, 3 May 2013 Back
RMT (ZHC0018) Back
RMT (ZHC0018);Rail Accident Investigation Board, Rail Accident Report: Fatal accident involving a track worker at Saxilby,
4 December 2012 Back
University and College Union (ZHC002); Q183 Back
UNISON press release, UNISON responds to CIPD report, 26 November
UNISON (ZHC0015) Back
UNISON (ZHC0015) Back
Allied Healthcare (ZHC0016) Back
UNISON (ZHC0015) Back
UNISON (ZHC0015) Back