‘End the scourge of insecure work’ – TUC

In a TUC blog and news article by Anjum Klair for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) – BME women far more likely to be on zero-hours contracts

Analysis shows Black and minority ethnic (BME) women are nearly three times as likely to be on zero-hours contracts than white men.

The TUC warns that “structural racism in the jobs market is holding BME women back”, trapping them in low-paid jobs with few rights at work. The TUC calls for action to tackle this racial disparity by measures including banning zero-hours contracts and introducing ethnicity pay gap reporting.

Data – zero-hours contracts

There are currently 1.18 million workers employed on zero-hours contracts. These contracts are characterised by low pay, variable hours and fewer rights and protections for workers.

Employed on zero-hours contracts


Source: ONS

TUC analysis indicates BME workers are significantly overrepresented on zero-hours contracts compared to white workers (5.7 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent).

BME women are the most disproportionately affected group and are nearly three times as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men (6.8 per cent compared to 2.5 per cent).

White women are also significantly more likely than white men to be on zero-hours contracts (4.0 per cent compared to 2.5 per cent).

Percentage of men and women by ethnicity on zero-hours contracts

Source: (TUC analysis of Labour Force Survey, Q2, 2023)

Zero-hours contracts are not new. But their use has increased since 2010 under the Coalition and then Conservative Governments. In 2011 around 190,000 were on zero-hours contracts and now well over a million are.

This can’t simply be put down to growing awareness of the term “zero-hours contracts”. If it was then reports of other forms of temporary casual work would have fallen rapidly too. But this hasn’t happened.  

What is the problem with zero- hours contracts?

Zero-hours contracts are the most egregious example of one-sided flexibility at work, with the employer having absolute power over whether and when to offer shifts.

This makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.

Flexibility exists for the employer, but not the worker.

The uncertainty over working hours is a particular issue for those who have caring responsibilities, who are overwhelmingly women. 

Not knowing what your next pay cheque will be makes it difficult to pay bills. Such insecure work makes it difficult to access financial services such as mortgages and loans.

The TUC is calling for government action to end the scourge of insecure work.

Living Wage Foundation – Living hours

Providing security of hours alongside a real Living Wage. 

The campaign for a real Living Wage has ensured hundreds of thousands of workers are earning a wage they can live on, not just the government minimum.

But millions of low paid workers are also struggling to get the hours they need to make ends meet. That’s why the Living Wage Foundation has developed a new standard of what good looks like for those employers that can offer ‘Living Hours’ alongside a real Living Wage.

The Insecurity Complex: Low Paid Workers And The Growth Of Insecure Work

This report by Joe Richardson looks at the scale of insecure and low paid work in the UK, the impact of Covid-19 on insecure workers and includes polling which reveals the impact of short notice periods for shifts.

It also looks at how the Living Wage Foundation Living Hours accreditation is part of the solution for employers wanting to support their employees with guaranteed hours and secure working patterns.

PAYadvice.UK 4/11/2023

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