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“Zero-Hours” Workers Feel Stuck

Data analysis from the Trades Union Congress reveals that almost half of contractors have been in these lower-paying jobs for more than two years.

By Maggie Mancini

Most zero-hours contract workers are “stuck” in contracts in the long-term throughout the U.K., according to research from the Trades Union Congress. The union body warns hundreds of thousands of workers are in these lower-paying jobs for years on end.  

The analysis reveals that two-in-three (66%) zero-hours contract workers have been with their current employer for over a year. Almost half (46%) have been with their employer for more than two years, and one-in-eight (12%) have been with their employer for over a decade.  

Only a minority of zero-hours workers are on contracts as a stop gap, temporary measure. Just 7% of workers have been with their employer for less than three months. TUC polling in 2021 shows that the most important reason people take zero-hours contact work is because it’s the only work available.  

Almost half (45%) of respondents say that this is the most important reason for them being on zero-hours contracts, while 16% say it was the typical contract in their line of work. Just 9% cite work-life balance as the most important reason, with many in this group saying that they would prefer the opportunity to work flexibly in a different, more secure job.  

There are 1.15 million people in these contracts, with Black and minority ethnic women nearly three times as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men (6.8% compared to 2.5%). The number of Black and minority ethnic women in insecure work more than doubled from 2011 to 2022, from 360,000 to 836,300, according to TUC data.  

The TUC says zero-hours contract provide employers full control over workers’ hours and earning power, meaning workers do not know how much they will earn each week. The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, budget, and care for their children. Further, it can make it more difficult to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised in the future.  

Recent TUC polling reveals that 63% of workers support a ban on zero-hours contracts.  

Tags: EMEA March 2024, EMEA News

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