BIG FAT ZERO One mil­lion work­ers will be on no-hours con­tracts by spring

The People - - NEWS FEATURES & - By Stephen Hay­ward

THE num­ber of work­ers stuck on con­tro­ver­sial zero hours con­tracts is set to top a mil­lion for the first time, we can re­veal.

Lat­est fig­ures show that last year 903,000 were on the deals – where em­ploy­ees can be called in at a mo­ment’s no­tice, have no fixed hours and not even know how much they are go­ing to earn.

Un­der the Tories the num­ber of such work­ers has risen from 250,000 in 2013 to 622,000 in 2014 and 747,000 in 2015.

And unions ex­pect the to­tal to break the 1,000,000 bar­rier when the next set of fig­ures is pub­lished this spring.

The grim prospect comes months af­ter Theresa May pledged to build a bet­ter Bri­tain for the “just about man­ag­ing”.

Com­pa­nies use the con­tro­ver­sial con­tracts to cut costs by bring­ing in staff only as and when they are needed.

But union lead­ers say they are a night­mare for hard-up fam­i­lies.

Sur­vive

Many work­ers do not know from one week to the next how much they will earn – or whether they will get any pay at all – and are forced to rely on hous­ing ben­e­fits and tax cred­its just to sur­vive.

Fig­ures from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics show those on the con­tracts get paid £7.25 an hour on av­er­age, £3.80 less than peo­ple in per­ma­nent jobs.

And in most cases they can­not claim sick, hol­i­day or re­dun­dancy pay.

In con­trast the chief ex­ec­u­tives of the UK’s 100 big­gest stock mar­ket listed firms get an av­er­age £1,000 an hour – around 138 times what zero hours work­ers earn.

Busi­ness lead­ers say the flex­i­ble labour mar­ket helps boost em­ploy­ment and zero hours con­tracts are of­ten pre­ferred by par­ents, young peo­ple and pen­sion­ers who do not want to work full-time.

But unions have ac­cused em­ploy­ers of cre­at­ing a “sub­class” of low-paid and in­se­cure work with no guar­an­teed hours or le­gal pro­tec­tion from un­fair dis­missal.

The TUC be­lieves zero hours con­tracts are just the tip of the ice­berg and that more than three mil­lion – one in 10 of UK em­ploy­ees – are now do­ing in­se­cure jobs such as sea­sonal, tem­po­rary or agency work, up from 2.4 mil­lion in 2011.

TUC re­search shows the 27 per cent rise in in­se­cure jobs was be­ing driven by tra­di­tional in­dus­tries, such as teach­ing and the ser­vice sec­tor, with restau­rant and pub work­ers making up a fifth of the in­crease. Part of the rise is down to the pri­vate care home sec­tor where the num­ber of work­ers on zero hours deals has jumped from one in 10 to one in seven in a year. Lat­est ONS data shows about 113,000 of the 769,000 work­ers who pro­vide at-home care or work in care homes are on con­tracts with no guar­an­teed hours. And those who make home vis­its are paid only for the time spent with clients, not for time travelling in be­tween them.

TUC leader Frances O’Grady said: “In the past decade there has been an ex­plo­sion of zero hours con­tracts.

“Bosses of­ten ar­gue they of­fer flex­i­bil­ity but in many in­dus­tries they are just a way of em­ploy­ing staff on the cheap.”

Dave Pren­tis, leader of the pub­lic ser­vices union Uni­son, said the so­cial care sys­tem would col­lapse with­out the “sheer ded­i­ca­tion” of those who work in it.

He added: “Zero hours con­tracts give em­ploy­ers the up­per hand with work­ers fear­ful of rais­ing con­cerns.” Last year Sports Di­rect was shamed into of­fer­ing all shop staff on zero hours con­tracts at least 12 guar­an­teed hours a week.

McDon­ald’s and pub chain JD Wether­spoon also an­nounced plans to of­fer guar­an­teed hours.

Last month ex-Downing Street pol­icy chief Matthew Tay­lor was ap­pointed to head a Gov­ern­ment re­view of work­ers’ rights and prac­tices amid grow­ing con­cerns about the spread of in­se­cure jobs.

The Busi­ness Depart­ment said: “We’re de­ter­mined to en­sure our em­ploy­ment rules keep up to date to re­flect new ways of work­ing.”

WARN­ING: TUC leader Frances

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