Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue supports the intention of the Employment Standards Legislation Bill but considers that it should provide better protections for people in insecure employment.
New Zealand is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 7 provides that State Parties are required to recognise the right of all persons to:
- Just and favourable conditions of work
- Fair wages and equal remuneration
- Remuneration that provides a decent living for the worker and their family.
Dr Jackie Blue says that while the Bill is a step in the right direction, she would like it mandatory for minimum hours to be set out in casual employment contracts.
“There is still too much uncertainty for casual workers and the ‘zero-hour’ contracts are legally dubious. Workers who are constantly concerned about income security perform less well at work and this income insecurity impacts negatively on health,” Dr Blue said.
“I feel that the broad nature of s 65(2)(iv) still leaves too much room for zero-hour contracts as there is still no provision for minimum hours to be offered in individual employment contracts.
“Improvement of employment standards and conditions, through a more rigorous statutory scheme, is essential if entrenched disparities and inequalities that currently exist in the labour market are to be adequately addressed,” she said.
The NZ Council of Trade Unions estimates that 635,000 New Zealanders are in ‘insecure work’, with 95,000 workers having no usual work time.
“The ‘no care no concern’ for the workers employed in insecure arrangements is not how the economy will prosper and is unfair to those workers that are required to be on call at all times but have no hours guaranteed.
“Strengthening protections against unfair employment practices should improve the overall circumstances of vulnerable, low-wage workers, most of whom are women that work in insecure work arrangements. I support full wage protections for without-notice shift cancellations,” Dr Blue said.
Read the Commission's submission on the Employment Standards Legislation Bill here.