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4.5 million people in insecure work, reveals Citizens Advice

Four and a half million people in England and Wales are in insecure work, reveals new analysis by Citizens Advice.

The national charity says insecure work - where people don’t have regular hours or predictable shifts - means many find it impossible to manage their budgets or plan for the future.

The new figures reveal over 2.3m people are working variable shift patterns, with an additional 1.1m on temporary contracts and further 800,000 are on either zero hour or agency contracts.

Survey findings in a new Citizens Advice briefing recently published also show that people rate a steady, reliable income (92%) as just as importantas the level of take-home pay (93%) when they are looking for work.

Opportunities in terms of experience (84%), being passionate about the role (82%) and progression at work (74%) and are considered less of a priority.

‘The importance of income security’ also reveals that employers have more to gain from their staff if people have a secure income - 8 in 10 (83%) people in work say a steady job with regular pay increases productivity and almost 9 in 10 (86%) report it increases their loyalty towards employers.

Citizens Advice warns that the importance of a stable job and secure income is at risk of being overshadowed by a single focus on income level.  It says recent changes to boost working people’s income - such as the introduction of the National Living Wage and raising the personal tax allowance threshold - are welcome but urgently need to be complemented by efforts to improve people's security at work.

Previous research with staff and volunteers from across the Citizens Advice network found 83% of people with fluctuating work patterns seeking the charities’ help were struggling with debt and 87% faced delays or problems with in work benefits such as work tax credits and housing benefit.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Income security is the overlooked piece of the labour market puzzle.

“While for some people working shifts or temporary contracts may provide the flexibility they want, many others struggle to balance the books in the face of such insecure employment. We’ve found that when people are looking for work, getting a steady income is just as important to them as what they’ll be paid.

“Having a steady, reliable income is fundamental to how secure people feel and is key if the government wants to achieve its ambition of a high wage, low welfare economy. Offering people a secure income is also in the interest of employers, as it boosts staff morale and productivity."

Kate*, 22, came to Citizens Advice for help and described the challenges she faced in insecure work:

“I worked anything from 12-50 hours each week. Not having set hours was really difficult as some weeks I did not have enough money to cover my bills or rent. I never knew how much money I would have so I could never budget or plan ahead.”

*name has been changed

Notes to editors

  1. Insecure figures based on analysis of ONS Q2 2015 Labour Force Survey. Analysis takes whole population aged over 16, minus students and people from Scotland and Northern Ireland (Citizens Advice covers England and Wales). Insecure work then based on anyone any on a zero hours contract, reliant on paid overtime, working more than 8 hours overtime per week, on a temporary contract, working for an agency or working particular shift patterns (splits, day/ nights etc and their hours vary)
  2. ComRes surveyed 2,067 British adults online, of which 1,135 were in regular or part time work between the 26th and 28th February 2016. Full data tables are available at www.comres.co.uk. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.
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