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TUC: Over a quarter of a million more in insecure work by end of next Parliament

3.5 million people could be in insecure work by start of 2022

290,000 more people could be trapped in insecure work by 2022 if current trends continue, the TUC has warned.

This is equivalent to thirteen extra Sports Directs, or the entire working population of Sheffield.

The figures show that by the start of 2022, 3.5 million people could be in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, temp or agency work, and low-paid self-employment.

The analysis comes as part of a series of TUC election warnings, which show what the British economy will look like in 2022 if current trends continue unchecked.

Previous TUC research found that workers on insecure zero-hours contracts earn a third less per hour than the average worker.

The TUC also found that insecure work costs the Treasury £4 billion a year in lost income tax and national insurance contributions, along with extra benefits and tax credits.

The TUC is calling for:

  • A ban on zero-hours contracts: people working regular hours should have a right to a guaranteed-hours contract.
  • People on variable-hours contracts to get overtime pay for hours outside of their contracts.
  • All workers to have a right to a written statement of terms, conditions and working hours, from day one.
  • Everyone at work to get the same rights as an employee, unless the employer can show that they are genuinely self-employed.
  • Agency workers should be entitled to the going rate for the job, on an equal basis with directly-employed workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“MPs aren’t the only ones feeling insecure in their jobs right now. If nothing changes, hundreds of thousands more Brits could be stuck in insecure work, being treated like disposable labour. That’s the same as thirteen extra Sports Directs, or the entire working population of Sheffield.

“Paying rent and bills can be a nightmare when you don’t know how much you’ve got coming in each month. And planning childcare is impossible when you’re constantly at the beck and call of employers.

“The next government will need to tackle this problem head on. Every party manifesto must have real commitments to crack down on zero-hours contracts and bogus self-employment. And agency workers should always get the going rate for the job.”

Notes to Editors:

The TUC’s definition of insecure work includes those on zero-hours contracts, insecure temporary work like agency and casual work, and low paid self-employment. The figures are based on OBR projections for the growth in the number of employees and self-employed people between 2016 and 2021 (see March EFO Supplementary Economy Tables, table 1.6), TUC calculations based on ONS data that 39%of the increase in employee numbers between 2011 and 2016 has come from insecure work, and data from the SMF that shows that 45% of the self-employed are in low paid work.

Fiscal impact of increased self-employment and zero hours contract (ZHC) working (£bn/year)


Self-employed (bottom 40%)

ZHC employees


Income tax




National Insurance




Benefits and tax credits








Source: TUC/Landsman Economics figures: bit.ly/2pgk4n2

Median hourly pay rates (2016)


Hourly pay rate

% of median earnings

Average employed








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