The use of zero hours contracts among UK employers was revealed this week to be far higher than previously thought – there are now over a million people employed in this way.
Such contracts often mean having to remain free for work, without any guarantees that there will be any, while workers typically have little of the employment rights and benefits that many of us take for granted. Most live a precarious life, securing work on a week to week and often a day to day basis.
Seamus Milne, writing for the Guardian newspaper set out the stark reality for many, “For most, this is 21st-century serfdom: concentrated in low-paid sectors, delivering one-sided flexibility to the employer and insecurity to the worker, with no requirement for holiday, sick or redundancy pay, and imposing wild fluctuations in hours on an often intimidated workforce.”
Scottish MSPs are looking at ways to tackle the problem and may look at companies tendering for public sector contracts, potentially restricting access to companies involved in such practices.
This could have consequences for the third sector – researchers found that 34% of those engaged in the practice were third sector organisations.