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Barrett Baker

Cancelled shift compensation won't end the injustice of life on a zero-hours contract

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Government plans to compensate zero-hours workers who lose out on work will do nothing to reform a jobs market that allows bosses to treat workers like disposable labour.
  • The government has today announced plans to force bosses to compensate workers for cancelled shifts and penalise employers who don't give enough notice.
  • A new report by Feeding Britain has found that zero-hours workers are going hungry on zero-hours contracts and forced to turn to food banks just to survive.
  • Over 20,000 people have signed out petition calling on the government ban zero-hours contracts before more lives are ruined.

For years we’ve argued that you just can’t make ends meet on a zero-hours contract.

From shift patterns that change every week to hours cut at the last minute, planning your life on these causal contracts is a nightmare.

At last the government has started to listen, announcing today that it will consult on plans to compensate workers if their shifts are cancelled at the last minute.

This is welcome news, but it won’t do anything to reform a jobs market that allows bosses to treat workers like disposable labour.

The next PM needs to take urgent action to tackle this injustice. He should start by listening to the 20,000 people who have signed our petition calling for an outright ban on ZHCs.

If you agree, sign our petition now.

A step forward – but not enough

Our polling shows that over half (51 per cent) of zero-hours workers had shifts cancelled at less than a day’s notice – and nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) had been offered work in the same time frame.

Most of the time employers can act this way without being penalised.

But sending workers home seconds before or mid-way through a shift leaves them having to pay for travel or childcare costs that may not even be covered by what they earned that day.

So it’s good news that the government has decided to consult on whether bosses should have to give a certain amount of notice of shifts.

We also welcome moves to impose penalties when the notice isn’t long enough, and compensation for workers whose shifts have been cancelled at short notice.

If implemented properly, these measures could help some workers. But only if there are no loopholes, such as exemptions for some sectors or for workers with short service.

And on their own these plans are nothing like enough to tackle the scourge of insecure work.

When work doesn’t pay

Feeding Britain is on a mission to end hunger in the UK.

Its latest report, When Work Doesn’t Pay, lays bare the reality of life on a zero-hours contract for all too many workers.

It shows that people are being pushed to the edge by ZHCs, living a daily nightmare of fear and insecurity because they don’t know how much they’ll earn from one week to the next.

Take Arnold, a 60-year-old zero-hours worker who was forced to use foodbanks because he’s “unsure of the working hours I will get each week and am unable to forecast financially”.

Impossible to plan ahead

The unpredictability of zero-hours work also means you can’t count on regular social security payments.

So a single parent from Coventry ended up relying on foodbanks to supplement her zero-hours income while waiting for her Universal Credit payments to come through for rent.

Paul, a 61-year-old worker, explained the stress of having to “wait for a text on the Wednesday night to tell me if I would be working on the Thursday”.

And even when Paul was unwell, he felt he had to accept shifts out of fear he wouldn’t be offered more if he turned them down.

Workers at risk

As if this wasn’t enough to show just how bad ZHCS are, it also looks like they can contribute to death and injury at work.

Following an investigation into the recent death of a railway worker hit by a train, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch found a link between ZHCs and tiredness at work.

Workers are tired because they are being forced to juggle several jobs at once just to make ends meet.

But even though zero-hours workers are dying on the job, the government still refuses to act.

Enough is enough

The system has to change, but unless we speak up it never will.

That’s why we’ve launched a petition calling for them to be banned once and for all. So far over 20,000 people have signed and the numbers keep on rising.

The next Prime Minister has an opportunity to start their time in office by doing the right thing and heeding our call.

Join us in calling for an end to scandal of ZHCs came to an end. Sign our petition now – it only takes 30 seconds.