New research by the social survey company Mass1 points to a growing subclass of insecure and low paid employment which could include as many as 5.5 million people on zero hour contracts.
The independent survey involving 5,000 members of Unite across the private sector found that 22 per cent were on zero hours contracts earning an average of £500 per month. When taken as a portion of the UK workforce the numbers on zero hours contracts equates to a staggering 5.5 million people.
The survey, the largest of its kind, suggests that the under thirties are more likely to be on a zero hours contract with half of respondents falling into the 16-30 category.
The findings also point to employers using zero hours contracts to avoid paying holiday pay and sick pay. Just over a third (36 per cent) say they don’t get holiday pay and 77 per cent receive no sick pay.
When asked ‘would you like to stay on the zero-hours contract?’ just 13 per cent said they would, busting a hole in employers’ arguments that a majority of workers choose zero hour contracts.
The research conducted via phone and text comes ahead of the first debate at this year’s TUC congress in Bournemouth and Sunday’s debate on employment rights.
Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, said: “The government’s refusal to address the growing scandal of zero hours contracts is creating a growing sub class of insecure and low paid employment.
“Employers are exploiting zero hour contracts to dodge holiday and sick pay. This latest mutation of precarious working is leaving workers in limbo, unable to plan how much they will earn or when they will work from one week to the next.
“It is a growing scandal of our times that is denying workers access to mortgages, renting a home and even getting a mobile phone.
“An economy built on the back of insecure work and exploitation will not deliver a sustainable recovery. We need urgent action to end the growth of this pernicious form of employment and end to this government’s never ending attacks on workers’ rights.”
Unite is calling for:
· Define zero hours workers as employees with all the legal protections that accompany this.
· Guaranteed hours with maximum percentage of contracted overtime
· Require government to use its purchasing power to wipe out insecure employment from all state contracts.
· A restoration of sector level collective bargaining to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ in ‘vulnerable’ sectors including social care, hospitality, retail, food and logistics.
· The government to drop the steep charge for employment tribunals (one of the only ways workers can pursue justice).
Mass1 is an independent research company. The survey was conducted with Unite members between 12 August 2013 and 30 August 2013 via text and phone. It is a weighted sample size of 5,000, weighted using Experian Mosaic and IBM SPSS.
For further information contact Alex Flynn, Unite head of media and campaigns on 07967 665 869.
Notes to editors
· Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.42 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.