Nearly one million workers in the UK are on zero-hour contracts. A further five million are nominally self-employed. Such employment is less novel than is often assumed. What is now "flexibility" was once "casual labour", and social enquiry revealed the consequences of casual labour over a hundred years ago. The nineteenth century founding fathers of social statistics (Charles Booth, Seehbohm Rowntree, A.L. Bowley among others) argued that, to safeguard Britain’s commercial and imperial pre-eminence, casual employment must be abolished. Theresa May has recently set up a twenty-first century equivalent in the Taylor Review. It is likely to reach similar conclusions.
In this Trade Union Forum seminar, Professor Noel Whiteside, Professor of Comparative Public Policy at the University of Warwick and Sally Brett, Head of Equality, Inclusion and Culture at the British Medical Association will approach the subject from both the historical and contemporary policy perspective. Why did the social reforms of the early twentieth century designed to tackle the problems of casual labour ultimately fail? What mistakes are we at risk of making again?
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