Three-quarters of a million people now in 'pay as you go' employment
THREE-QUARTERS of a million people are now on zero-hours contracts, according to figures published yesterday. And they’re poorly paid compared to full-time workers.
The number of people on the exploitative contracts shot up by 19 per cent to 744,000 just over the past six months, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Nearly a third of them are 16 to 25-year-olds.
The new figure sparked fresh criticism of the contracts, under which workers do not know how many hours a week they can expect to do. Often, shifts are scheduled or cancelled at the last minute.
This means people can’t be sure they’ll be able to pay bills, feed their families or have a healthy work-life balance.
A Department for Business spokesman claimed that zero-hours contracts have “a part to play in a modern, flexible labour market.
The government had “acted to ban” exclusivity clauses that restrict people from seeking extra work elsewhere, the spokesman added.
But a shocking 40 per cent of people on such contracts want to work more but cannot get extra hours or additional jobs, the ONS said.
The Tory claim to be “on the side of working people” was nothing more than “lip service,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.
TUC research shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared to £479 for full-time employees.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady called the £300 difference “a stark reminder of Britain’s two-tier workforce.”
She said: “I challenge any minister or business leader to survive on a low-paid zero-hours contract job, not knowing from one day to the next how much work they will have.”
Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to admit live on television earlier this year that he could not survive on a zero-hours contract, despite using statistics on such jobs to distort unemployment figures under Tory rule.
As well as teenagers and young adults, those in zero-hours jobs with an average of 25 hours per week are most likely to be women and older people.
Many of those questioned in the ONS study might not know what to expect from a zero-hours contract, or even what one is, before agreeing to a “pay as you go” role, said Jon Ingham of jobs website Glassdoor.
Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn said: “The figures show an increasing trend of work becoming more insecure, low-paid and exploitative.
“But this is only the tip of the iceberg, with growing numbers underemployed or forced into unpaid workfare schemes, internships and low-quality apprenticeships.”
Workers in a number of regions across the country are “fighting back” by campaigning for fixed hours, said GMB union general secretary Paul Kenny.
The TUC estimates that another 820,000 workers are underemployed — desperate to work full-time but stuck in part-time jobs. More than 1.2 million people now work fewer hours than they need, up 200,000 since the Tories took office in 2010, shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said.