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TUC: Zero-hours contracts allow bosses to treat workers like “disposable labour”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady commented on figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, which show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has increased by 13% over the past year

“Zero-hours contracts allow bosses to treat workers like disposable labour.

“If you’re on a zero-hours contract you have no guarantee of work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong and you can be let go in a heartbeat. Turn down a shift because your kid’s sick and you can be left with little or no work.

“That’s why employment law needs dragging law into the 21st century. Far too many workers do not have the power to challenge bad working conditions.

“Zero-hours contracts can be a nightmare to plan your life around. And are a huge drain on the public finances.

“The growth in zero-hours working over the last decade is costing the government almost £2bn a year.”

The TUC estimates that the growth of zero-hours working is costing the exchequer £1.9bn a year. This is because zero-hours contract workers earn significantly less than regular employees and therefore:

  • pay less tax
  • pay less national insurance
  • are more reliant on tax credits.

Median pay for a zero-hours worker is a third (£3.50) less an hour than for an average employee.

The TUC is launching a new initiative for workers to share their experiences of insecure work anonymously. The findings of the survey will be presented in May.

View report:  People in employment on a zero-hours contract: Mar 2017 (Latest release)

Notes to Editors:

Fiscal impact of and ZHC working



Income tax




Tax credits and benefits




Median hourly pay

Zero-hours worker

All employees



  • The TUC uses modelling of the tax and benefit system by Landman Economics. It simulates the impact of the increase in zero hours contracts since 2006 using data from the UK Family Resources Survey (FRS) to estimate the impact on income tax and National Insurance Contributions, and tax credits and in-work benefits received, for individuals in the FRS. The extent of the increase in zero- hours contracts is calculated using the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS).
  • All TUC press releases can be found at tuc.org.uk/media 
  • TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews


Press Office  T: 020 7467 1248  E: media@tuc.org.uk
Alex Rossiter  T: 020 7467 1285  M: 07887 572130  E: arossiter@tuc.org.uk
Tim Nichols  T: 020 7467 1388  M: 07808 761844  E: tnichols@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson (Mon to Thurs) T: 020 7467 1337  M: 07900 910624  E: egibson@tuc.org.uk
Michael Pidgeon  T: 020 7467 1372  M: 07717 531150  E: mpidgeon@tuc.org.uk

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