NEWS: Flexibility ‘an illusion’ for over half of zero hour workers finds poll

More than half of zero-hour workers (53%) are thinking about quitting their job after Christmas, a TUC poll has revealed.

In the study published this week, it found that higher pay was only one of the factors for people wanting to leave their jobs.

Greater security, such as guaranteed hours or income, was cited by 37 per cent of workers as a reason to move. More hours was the reason given by a quarter (29 per cent) of workers.

Two-thirds (66%) of zero-hour workers would rather have a contract with guaranteed hours, it found.

TUC’s study challenges the view that zero-hour contracts offer desirable flexibility for both workers and companies.

‘Employers claim people choose to work on zero-hour contracts because they like this flexibility and choice,’ says the report.

But the TUC says ‘this flexibility is an illusion’. “The reality is that they feel compelled to work whenever asked. If work is turned down, there is an implicit threat that they could lose out on future work,” the report says.

The TUC is calling for employers to avoid the use of zero hour contracts and instead give staff who want them contracts with regular hours that reflect normal working patterns. The union is calling on the government to ban them, following the lead of countries like New Zealand. 

Two-thirds of zero-hours workers would rather have a contract with guaranteed hours. Photograph: iStock

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Most people on zero-hour contracts are not on them by choice. They’d much rather have the security of guaranteed hours and the same rights as employees.  

“The so-called ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer is one-sided. Many zero-hours workers have shifts cancelled at the last minute. And lots are struggling to make ends meet.”

The TUC surveyed 300 workers on zero-hours contracts and compared results with 2987 regular hours’ workers during August 2017.

Matthew Taylor's independent review of modern working practices, submitted to government in July, called for 'a baseline of protection' for all workers including those on casual contracts. Individuals should be given “terms of their status, take home pay, in plain English on day one of their employment”, he told an inquiry on the report earlier this year.

The government’s response to the recommendations for change have been postponed until next year. According to the Guardian, they have been stalled by Brexit negotiations and concerns any action that could increase the cost of employment could reduce the total UK employment rate.

A total of 905,000 people are reported to be on a zero hour contract, representing 2.8% of all people in employment. It is 13% higher than the reported figure from the same period in 2015, according to the ONS.