Sports Direct recruitment poster in a store window, July 2016. Photo: Richard Gardner / REX / Shutterstock
Zero-hours contracts up 21% in just one year
The new official statistics on zero-hours contracts in the UK are out today and they make for grim reading.
Over the past year, Britain’s zero-hours workforce has grown from 747,000 to 903,000 – a rise of 21%.
Zero-hours contracts have become an easy way for bosses to employ staff on the cheap, and more and more of them are trying to get away with it.
But there is no getting away from the fact that zero-hours workers earn less money and have fewer rights than people with permanent jobs.
Our research shows that the average worker earns over 50% more than the typical worker on a zero-hours contract. The median hourly rate for a zero-hours worker is £7.25, whereas for all employees it is £11.05.
It is very easy for politicians and employers to talk about the ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer. But they aren’t the ones living at the sharp end of the labour market.
If you don’t know how much work you will have from one day to the next, paying the bills and arranging things like childcare can be a nightmare.
In most cases, the only people benefiting from ‘flexibility’ are the employers themselves.
Unions have long been concerned and active about this sharp erosion of working and living standards for so many people, and it was great to see the huge progress Unite have made in recent days in their campaign against the low-pay, low-security approach at Sports Direct – until now the poster-firm for zero-hours contracts.
We have a huge task on our hands now to build on the wins we’ve had in some employers, and start to turn this tide. These new figures are a stark reminder of why we need to create more decent jobs people can actually live on.