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At least 3.8 million people are in insecure work, such as agency work, zero-hour contracts and low-paid self-employment

New analysis published today (Thursday) by the TUC finds that 3,820,000 UK workers are in insecure forms of employment. This is 11.9% of the workforce, or 1 in 9 workers.

As well as economic hardship and disruption to family life, many workers in the ‘gig economy’ are denied key workplace rights, including:

  • protection from unfair dismissal
  • family friendly rights
  • rights to be represented by a trade union

Bosses are falsely labelling staff as self-employed, outsourcing work to agencies or using zero hours contracts to drive down costs and dodge their employment and tax responsibilities, says the TUC.

Agency and zero-hours staff can he hired and fired at will and have no right to return to their job after having a baby.  And ‘gig economy’ workers forced into bogus ‘self-employment’ by their boss are not guaranteed the national minimum wage, paid holidays or sick pay.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Every worker deserves fair pay, decent rights, and a voice at work. But millions are stuck in jobs with bosses who treat them like disposable labour. We need a new deal for working people so that every worker gets respect, and every job is a good job.

“The government must crack down on shady business models that exploit workers. No more zero-hour contracts. No more bogus self-employment. And no more using agency workers to undercut permanent staff.

“Workers deserve so much better. That’s why tens of thousands of people will march through London on Saturday for the TUC’s ‘A New Deal for Working People’ demonstration.”

The TUC’s national march and rally for ‘A New Deal for Working People’ takes place on Saturday 12 May. Assembly is from 11am at Embankment. The march will commence at 12noon and will culminate in a rally at Hyde Park at which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will speak.

Editors note

- Number of workers and proportion of workforce in insecure forms of employment in the UK, 2017

UK nation or region

Number of workers

Proportion of workforce

North East



North West



Yorkshire & Humberside



East Midlands



West Midlands



East of England






South East



South West









Northern Ireland



United Kingdom



Source and methodology:

  • For this analysis ‘insecure work’ includes (1) temporary workers (including ONS categories for ‘agency workers’, ‘casual workers’, ‘seasonal workers’ and ‘other’; excluding ‘fixed-term contracts’), (2) workers whose primary job is a zero-hour contract, (3) self-employed workers who are paid less than the National Living Wage (£7.83).
  • All data is from the Office for National Statistics. Data on temporary workers and zero-hour workers is taken from the Labour Force Survey (Q4 2017). Data on low-paid self-employed workers is taken from the Family Resources Survey (2016/17).
  • Double counting has been excluded.
  • These figures represent the number of people in insecure jobs in October to December 2017. Figures for the regions should be interpreted with greater caution, as based on smaller sample sizes.

For more information on A New Deal For Working People visit:

To improve employment practices, the TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Ban zero-hours contracts to ensure workers get guaranteed hours, allowing them to pay bills and plan childcare.
  • Ensure equal pay for agency workers, by ending the Swedish Derogation which acts as an undercutters charter.
  • Crack down on bogus self-employment and ensure workers enjoy the same floor of rights as employees, including redundancy pay and family-friendly rights.
  • Allow trades unions to access workplaces, to support workers most in need of representation.
  • Increase resources and powers for enforcement, so that dodgy employers have nowhere to hide.
  • The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
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