Precarious Employment

What is precarious employment? How is it defined? What is the difference between precarious and informal employment. Find out here

Precarious employment is a non-standard, or alternative, form of employment. As such it is opposed to a standard open-ended full-time employment contract following all formal regulations of the country’s Labour legislation (most commonly the Labour Code). In a standard employment contract, the employer pays for the employee taxes and social security contributions to the relevant state authority. In return, the employee has various rights stemming from the legal regulation, e.g., paid sickness and maternity leave, job protection (can be fired only in accordance with the legal procedure), will receive a pension upon retirement, will receive an unemployment benefit if eligible, and similar rights.

Compared to employees with a standard formal employment contract, people in precarious employment have lower job protection. They can be fired easier. They earn lower wages. They have less or no dismissal and unemployment protection, pension and sickness entitlements, and other social security entitlements.

To see whether your job is precarious, try and check the following questions:

  • Does my employer respect all prescriptions of the Labour Code regarding my employment contract? (NO = I have a precarious job)
  • Is my gross hourly wage low? Is it below two-thirds of the median* gross hourly wages in my country/region/industry (YES = I have a precarious job)
  • Are my social security contributions and entitlements limited or marginal compared to other colleagues? (YES = I have a precarious job)
  • Is my job secure? When my employer wants to fire me, would he/she pay me a severance payment according to the law? (NO = I have a precarious job)
  • Is my access to training and career growth limited? (YES = I might have a precarious job, my exact situation depends on answers to other questions)**
  • Are my other labour conditions less favourable than for colleagues with a standard employment contract (e.g., paid maternity leave dependent on previous employment and salary, disability and sickness insurance, holiday entitlements, paid overtime)? (YES = I have a precarious job)
  • Do I work part-time although I would prefer to work more hours or to work full-time? (YES = I might have a precarious job, depending on answers to other questions)
  • Does my employer force me to work under unfavourable conditions? For example, does the employer force me to work as self-employed although I would prefer to work as a standard employee? (YES = I have a precarious job)

What can I do when I am in a precarious employment situation?

The best thing to do is to get as much information as possible on your country’s legal regulation. Find a trade union or workers’ council in your neighbourhood. It may help to evaluate your personal employment situation and suggest what steps to take.