Precarious work, vulnerable workers

Job insecurity…. an increasing number of contract, part-time, casual and seasonal workers face low wages, lack of benefits and uncertain working conditions.

Several recent Ontario studies addressing precarious work have recently been released. PEPSO’s Feb. 2013 study, It’s more than poverty, explores the economic and social impacts of this growing trend in the labour market. In its Vulnerable workers and precarious work – final report” (April 2013), the Law Commission of Ontario proposes changes to laws and programs dealing with employment protection, health and safety, training and education. Among their recommendations – a review  of the impact of workers’ compensation policies and practices (including experience rating) on vulnerable workers. Ellen MacEachen’s study on workplace safety for Ontario low wage temp agency workers,Understanding the management of injury prevention and return to work in temporary work agencies (2013), finds current experience rating structures fail to adequately provide incentives to either the temp agencies or client employers to reduce health and safety risks.

The precarious situation of migrant workers across Canada is highlighted in a series of provincial report cards on employment protections released in May by the Canadian Council for Refugees. The Ontario report card  notes that “migrant workers who suffer injury while employed in Ontario have been disproportionately affected by the rule which deems a worker ineligible for compensation, if they could theoretically do a job not requiring the injured body part. Neither the job nor the retraining required to carry it out may be available in the worker’s home country.”

In its blog Insecure Work,  the U.K. Hazards Magazine reports on the increase in precarious employment in times of “austerity”, with updates from around the world on the impact on occupational health for a disposable workforce.

UK compensation controversies

Some recent changes to British workers’ compensation that have brought a  sharp reaction:

Referring to a so-called “culture of compensation”, the U.K. government’s Red Tape legislation (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, 2013) includes amendments to employers’ liability law. Section 69 restricts a worker’s ability to bring a claim for work-related injury, even if that injury is caused by a criminal breach of health and safety regulations. Once more the burden of proof is on the injured worker to prove negligence…

Too many exclusions and time limits? Asbestos victims are calling for improvements to compensation provisions in the Mesothelioma Bill, 2013 currently before the government: