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Govt must act now on workplace inequality, MPs warn

Work and Pensions Committee finds workplace technologies risk worsening inequalities.

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The government must act now to avoid future generations being excluded from a rapidly evolving world of work, the Work and Pensions Committee has argued after an enquiry.

 

In a report entitled DWP’s preparations for changes in the world of work, MPs have found evidence that technological changes in the workplace are having uneven impacts on different groups of workers.

 

The findings conclude that even though new technology is unlikely to lead to mass unemployment, it will impact the creation of new jobs and viability of existing roles.

 

As a result, the MPs are calling upon the government to develop a long-term and comprehensive strategy for how it will prepare for these changes.

 

“Deep-seated trends were already driving labour market inequalities and the pandemic has hit fast forward on them,” commented Stephen Timms MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee.

 

“The government needs to plan now, to avoid large groups – younger workers, women, disabled people and those from some ethnic backgrounds – being left behind.”

 

To avoid exacerbating these inequalities, the report has called for greater focus on retraining and upskilling from the government.

 

This report has also advocated for the government to bring forward its Employment Bill which includes measures designed to protect the rising number of people working in the gig economy or in zero hours contracts. Citing lingering economic risks from the pandemic, Timms said these workers require greater protection as a result.

 

“The time for the government’s long-promised Employment Bill is now, so all workers have the legal status they deserve and access to skills training provided by employers,” he said.

 

“The economic shock of the pandemic should act as a warning sign as to how quickly the world of work can change. Time is not on the government’s side. The DWP needs to act now to make sure every worker has the skills and job protections they need to thrive.”

 

These recommendations have been welcomed by the CIPD with the body’s head of public policy Ben Willmott agreeing more needs to be done to protect employment and support inclusion.

 

“Boosting investment in lifelong learning should be central to this plan, as well as revitalising our vocational education and training system to enable people to upskill or retrain at different stages of their working lives,” said Willmott.

 

“Just as important is improving how employment rights are enforced, particularly for those in low paid and insecure employment, so it is also crucial that the new single market enforcement body receives sufficient resources to do its job when it is established.

 

“There’s a need to significantly boost the number of inspectors and increase the number of proactive inspections of workplaces if the new body is to be more effective than existing enforcement mechanisms.”

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