905,000 people are now on zero-hour contracts – up 13 per cent in a year

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

 

The number of people now working in zero-hours contracts has risen 13 per cent in a year to 905,000, according to official figures out today.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) blasted the growth of zero-hours contracts, warning they could be costing the treasury £1.9 billion a year in lost tax and National Insurance revenue, and in extra money spent on tax credits.

Unions have brought legal challenges to clarify the status of ‘gig economy’ workers at firms like Deliveroo and Uber which define their couriers as self-employed rather than workers or employees.

This denies them full rights to holiday time, sick pay and minumum wage.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“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.”

She added:

“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 said median pay for a zero-hours worker is £7.50, a third (£3.50) less an hour than for an average employee (£11).

The union umbrella body is also launching an initiative today for workers to share their experiences in precarious work anonymously, for a survey to be released in May.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“Zero hours contracts should be an option for individuals who want to work flexibly, not a way for unscrupulous employers to exploit their workers.

The government should act to limit the use of zero hour contracts so that employees have the right to say no.”

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