“We don’t want just full employment,” she said, speaking at the Resolution Foundation’s Targeting Full Employment in Modern Britain event in London. “We want full, good employment.
“We want people to feel satisfied, to take pride in their work, use all of their talents. We don’t want them to be scared. We don’t want them to feel insecure but that is what is happening in Britain today.”
O’Grady suggested that the prevalence of zero-hours contracts increases feelings of insecurity among workers. She also criticised the government’s Trade Union Bill, which will introduce stricter rules on strike actions and allow the use of agency workers to break strikes. “It’s not just about having a voice,” she said. “It’s about having that voice heard.”
CEO and founder of the Business Disability Forum Susan Scott-Parker said that unemployment rates among disabled individuals often don’t drop with overall unemployment rates. “In the 90s, when everybody else was doing okay, the disabled employment rate actually dropped,” she said.
She advised people to look to the future and consider how to keep disabled individuals in work long term. “We are all just ‘not yet disabled'. We should be looking at what makes disabled people lose their jobs in the first place. It’s that slow erosion of support,” she said.
Guy Stallard, head of facilities for KPMG, defended the July budget’s pledge to ensure employers pay a living wage of £7.20 an hour to workers aged 25 and over from April, with the rate rising to more than £9 an hour by 2020.
“The people most opposed to the living wage were right-wing economists who said if we raise wages then we will replace employees with robots,” he said. “That won’t be true. It will just change the nature of employment. We’ll need a number of employers to pay a living wage before we really see the impact of it.”