Blogpiece: By Polly Billington.
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thurrock (Labour)
“I want to know how many people are being employed, left on stand-by and sometimes not being paid from one weekend to the next. Zero hours contracts are often the way that employers use to keep their work force “flexible” – but sometimes it’s so “flexible” there is little or no work and pay and it plays havoc with people’s incomes and lives.
Labour’s Health Spokesman Andy Burnham, has suggested a ban on zero hours contracts. Many people who want to work full-time aren’t able to, and instead are left on call 7 days a week at the whim of the employer. That means budgeting, saving and panning your money gets harder if you don’t know how much your pay cheque will be from one week to the next.
It’s hard to get another job when you have to be available for an employer who may or may not pay you. Making sure you’re claiming the right level of benefit to top up your earnings becomes a nightmare, and you don’t the rights at work like parental leave and sick pay that you would if you were full-time.
Of course the flexibility of zero hours contracts can work for some people, especially if it sits alongside more secure, regular work and income.
But the number is rising and it doesn’t look like it’s for good reasons. The number of people employed on zero hour contracts has doubled since 2005, with 161,000 people employed in zero hours jobs in June 2012. It is likely the recession and a stagnant economy are behind this rise of zero hour contracts.
I started talking to people about this, and I heard more and more stories about the insecurity and uncertainty that zero hours contracts create for people. I received this email from a man who lives and works in Thurrock:
“I work for one of the major UK retailers. All new stores being opened take on staff on 7.5 hour contracts. These contracts may be changed after 12 weeks but generally they stay the same. The same applies for new staff in existing stores.
Staff are expected to work more hours and can be called upon at any
time to work. Other retailers work along the same lines, they also use minimal
contracts and actually tell staff that they are on call 24/7. This of course means people with children cannot plan child minding etc.”
It looks like people are being used as a disposable workforce, employed shift by shift.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I want to find out how widespread a problem zero hours contracts are for people here in Thurrock. Then we can work out what we need to do to change it.
Are you employed on a zero hours contract or a contract where you are asked to be on call without the guarantee of pay or work? Is the contract making it harder for you to work and look after your family?
Please complete my survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7WX2WZN and tell me about your experience of zero hour contracts, casual or ‘rolling’ contracts, employment agency contracts and internships.