Issue date
04 Dec 2017

Two-thirds of zero-hours workers want jobs with guaranteed hours, TUC polling reveals

  • Only 25% say they prefer being on zero-hours contracts
  • More than half are thinking about quitting their jobs
  • Government should ban zero-hours contracts, says TUC

Most people on zero-hours contracts are not on them by choice, new TUC polling has revealed today (Monday).

The poll shows that two-thirds (66%) of zero-hours workers would rather have a contract with guaranteed hours. And just one in four zero-hours workers (25%) say they prefer being on zero-hours contracts.

The survey shows that the main reason people are on zero-hours contracts is because it is the only type of work available to them. More than half of zero-hours workers (53%) are thinking about quitting their job over the coming year.

Rights at work:

The polling found that many zero-hours workers are missing out on basic rights at work:

  • Only 1 in 8 (12%) say they get sick pay.
  • Only 1 in 14 (7%) would get redundancy pay.
  • Two-fifths (43%) say they don’t get holiday pay.
  • Half (47%) say they do not get written terms and conditions.
  • Just 1 in 20 (5%) say they have the right to a permanent contract after working the same hours consistently.

‘Last minute working’:

The poll also reveals the ‘last minute’ nature of zero-hours working. More than half (51%) of zero-hours workers have had shifts cancelled at less than 24 hours' notice. And nearly three-quarters (73%) have been offered work at less than 24 hours' notice.

Making ends meet:

Most zero-hours contract workers (59%) want more hours. The majority (54%) say they find it difficult to pay bills because they can’t get enough work. But any requests for additional shifts are as likely to be rejected as accepted.

Nearly two-fifths (38%) of zero-hours workers say they wouldn’t be able to cope with an unexpected bill of £500.

The TUC says the government should clamp down on zero-hours working in its forthcoming response to the Taylor Review.

The TUC estimates that zero-hours working costs the exchequer £1.9bn a year. This is because zero-hours contract workers earn significantly less than regular employees and therefore:

  • pay less tax,
  • pay less national insurance,
  • are more reliant on tax credits.

Median pay for a zero-hours worker is a third (£3.50) less an hour than for an average employee.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Most people on zero-hours contracts are not on them by choice. They’d much rather have the security of guaranteed hours and the same rights as employees.  

“The so-called ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer is one-sided. Many zero-hours workers have shifts cancelled at the last minute. And lots are struggling to make ends meet.

“Now’s the time for the government to ban zero-hours contracts, as they have done in other countries like New Zealand. Every job should be a great job – but far too many workers in the UK are being treated like disposable labour.”

Editors note
  • GQR Research surveyed 300 workers on zero-hours contracts and 2987 other workers, all in Great Britain, online during August 2017. Results were weighted to the national profile of working people, by age, gender, ethnicity, full/part time contracts, public/private sector and industry. The zero-hours sample was separately weighted to national statistics for zero-hours workers, by gender, age, region, full/part-time hours and industry.
  • A summary of the findings can be found here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/great-jobs-with-guaranteed-hours.pdf
  • The TUC’s Great Jobs Agenda is calling on employers to ensure workers have:
    • The ability to have their voice heard at work.
    • Fair pay.
    • Regular hours.
    • Fair treatment – and freedom from discrimination.
    • A safe and healthy workplace.
    • The opportunity to learn and progress.
  • The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.6 million working people who make up our 50 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

TUC press office
[email protected]
020 7467 1248