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Clear majority of zero-hours contracts workers “stuck” in insecure jobs in the long-term, TUC warns

NEW ANALYSIS reveals 2 in 3 zero hours contract workers have been with their current employer for over a year.

  • TUC says a ban on zero-hours contracts is “long overdue”
  • Union body says “employers need to get on board with the New Deal” – following business calls to scale back the package.

The overwhelming majority of zero-hours contract workers are “stuck” on zero hours contracts in the long-term, the TUC has today (Tuesday) warned. 

The union body warns hundreds of thousands of workers are being trapped in low-pay and insecurity, with bad employers “parking workers on zero-hours contracts for years on end”.   

The new analysis reveals: 

  • 2 in 3 (66%) zero-hours contract workers have been with their current employer for over a year. 
  • Almost half (46%) of zero-hours contract workers have been with their current employer for over 2 years. 
  • Astonishingly, 1 in 8 (12%) zero-hours contract workers have been with their current employer for over 10 years. 

Only a minority of zero hours contract workers are on the precarious contracts as a stop gap, temporary measure. Just 7% of zero-hours workers have been with their current employer less than 3 months. 

TUC polling in 2021 showed that by far the most important reason that people take zero-hours contract work is because that is the only work available. 

Almost half (45%) of respondents said that this was the most important reason for them being on zero-hours contracts while 16% said it was the typical contract in their line of work.  

Just 9% cited work-life balance as the most important reason – and the TUC says many in this group would prefer the opportunity to work flexibly within a secure job.  

Structural racism in action

The latest available data show there are 1.15 million people on these contracts.  

Black and minority ethnic (BME) women are  nearly three times as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men (6.8% compared to 2.5%),   

TUC analysis published in August revealed the number of BME workers in insecure work more than doubled from 2011 to 2022 (from 360,200 to 836,300). 

The TUC says this increase in zero-hours contracts for BME workers reflects “structural racism in the jobs market”.  

Lack of control

The TUC says zero-hours contracts hand the employer total control over workers’ hours and earning power, meaning workers never know how much they will earn each week, with their income subject to the whims of managers.   

The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, budget and look after their children. 

And it makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.   

Such insecurity can be particularly challenging for those who have caring responsibilities, who are overwhelmingly women, says the TUC. 

New deal

The TUC says a ban on zero-hours contracts is “long overdue” - and is calling for all workers to have a right to a contract that reflects their regular hours.  

Recent TUC polling revealed 6 in 10 (63%) already support a ban zero-hours contracts – including 60% of Conservative 2019 voters.  

Labour is promising a ban on zero-hours contracts as part of its New Deal for Working People – which it says it will deliver with an employment bill in its first 100 days, if elected. 

The union body says “employers need to get on board with Labour’s New Deal”- following business calls to scale back the package. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“Everyone should be treated fairly at work. But too many workers – especially Black and ethnic minority women – are trapped in low-paid jobs on zero-hours contracts, with few rights and protections and no guarantee of shifts. 

"Bad employers are parking workers on zero hours contracts for years on end. It’s not right.  

“These precarious contracts hand almost total control over workers’ hours and earning power to managers – making it nigh on impossible to plan budgets and childcare.  

“Insecure work has boomed on the Conservatives’ watch over the past 14 years – with the number of workers on zero hours contracts hitting the one million mark. 

“That’s why a ban on zero hours contracts is long overdue. Working people should have a right to a contract that reflects their regular hours of work.  

“It's time for a New Deal for Working People, like Labour is proposing – which includes a ban on zero hours contracts, ensuring workers get reasonable notice of shifts and an end to fire and rehire.” 

Commenting on reports in The Times on business calls to scale back Labour’s New Deal for Working People, alongside a poll showing the plans are “extremely popular” with the public, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:  

“Employers need to get on board with Labour’s New Deal for Working People – and good employers will.   

“The UK’s long experiment with a low-rights, low-wage economy is a complete failure. The Tories’ lack of an economic plan for jobs, growth and living standards has cost workers and industry dear.   

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People stands in stark contrast to the Conservative’s dire record.

“And it would be good for our economy too. Decent, secure jobs are essential to building a motivated, healthy, innovative workforce – all vital for high productivity growth.”

Editors Note’s

The New Deal for Working People will help to tackle the scourge of insecure work by  

  • Ban zero-hours contracts, giving workers the right to a contract that reflects their regular hours work.
  • End fire and rehire to give workers security in their jobs.
  • Give all workers day one rights on the job. Labour will scrap qualifying time for basic rights, such as unfair dismissal, sick pay, and parental leave.
  • Ensure all workers get reasonable notice of any change in shifts or working time, with compensation that is proportionate to the notice given for any shifts cancelled or curtailed.
  • Beef up enforcement by making sure the labour market enforcement bodies have the powers they need to undertake targeted and proactive enforcement work and bring civil proceedings upholding employment rights.

Methodology 

The majority of the data is from the Labour Force Survey data 2023 Q4 – and the ethnicity data is from Q2 2023 as it is the latest available data for 2023. 

 

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/clear-majority-zero-hours-contracts-workers-stuck-insecure-jobs-long-term-tuc-warns

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