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CAB - Workers struggling at ‘sharp end’ of insecure jobs

Irregular hours from flexible work and zero hour contracts leave some workers anxiously facing eviction, afraid to speak out about their employment rights for fear of losing their work, or with debts piling up, new research by Citizens Advice finds.

A survey of Citizens Advice Bureaux reveals that three quarters (75 per cent) of staff and volunteers said that people coming to them for help are more likely to have fluctuating hours or shift patterns now than they did a year ago:

  • 83 per cent say people with fluctuating work have problems with debt.
  • 70 per cent of CAB staff and volunteers surveyed state they are aware of cases where someone’s hours or shifts changed negatively after they turned down work or took holiday or sick leave.
  • 87 per cent say people with fluctuating work face complications or delays to benefits such as working tax credits or housing benefit.
  • Three quarters (74 per cent) report they feel that people with fluctuating work seeking help from CAB have problems with childcare.

In its new Second choice jobs report Citizens Advice looks at the challenges faced by people in jobs where the structure of work makes it hard for them to maintain a decent standard of living.

Zero hour contracts have attracted extensive media attention but irregular hours in other types of work leave many more not knowing how much work they will get, when that work will be or what their income will be. These uncertainties can have a negative impact on those working for agencies, commission only jobs, fluctuating shift work and split shifts.

The report finds that increases in employers using shift work and in people in temporary work but looking for permanent employment are amongst the factors leaving many workers in second choice jobs that don’t offer the pay or regular hours they need to get by.

Aside from problems with debt and benefits Second choice jobs also finds people with unpredictable hours and income can be shut out from cost effective consumer choices. Budgeting, cutting down on fuel costs and being able to pay day to day bills is very difficult when you don’t know how much work you will get. Not being able to show steady income or guaranteed future income can also be a barrier for people trying to get a mortgage or even privately rent a home.

Last year over 220,000 people came to Citizens Advice for help with employment problems. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We need flexibility in the labour market, but not at the cost of fairness. The combination of low pay and unpredictable work patterns leaves too many people facing an uphill struggle to make ends meet from one month to the next.

“Zero hours contracts have hit the headlines, but many more workers are struggling at the sharp end of insecure jobs and unscrupulous employers. The next Government needs to consider how to ease some of the down sides of flexible work patterns and make sure people in second choice jobs don’t fall prey to in-work poverty.”

Citizens Advice

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, 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.
  2. 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.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. 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
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.
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