Concern that zero-hour contracts are here to stay and may become the norm for many young people has been expressed by a leading Scottish academic. Andy Furlong, of Glasgow University, believes that the trend will continue as employers embrace a “highly profitable” employment model, which sidesteps traditional workers’ rights. His concerns are echoed by the Scottish Trades Union Congress, who criticise the range and quality of labour market data that means there is little idea of true employment patterns in Scotland, which may underestimate the extent of the practice. Professor Furlong described the employment outlook for this and the next generation of young people as precarious and bleak.
The Office of National Statistics recently admitted that their figures estimating the extent of these working arrangements were likely to underestimate the true number and said they will change the way that they gather evidence on this. Their previous estimate was that 250,000 people were employed in this manner, but the Guardian newspaper reported that they had already found almost 200,000 workers in the private sector on zero hours contracts, including some of the UK’s biggest and most profitable businesses: McDonald’s, Burger King, JD Wetherspoon, Sports Direct and Cineworld. The UK Government has also found 307,000 workers in the care system employed in this manner. 90% of McDonalds staff have zero hours contracts.
A previous report estimates that there may be upwards of 1 million employees with no guarantee of hours, meaning many are unable to obtain mortgages or plan for childcare appropriately. Around 30% of charities that responded to this survey said that they employed at least 1 person in such a way.
MSPs are considering whether to take action on such contracts, including a refusal to accept tenders from employers adopting the practice.