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Zero Hour workers twice as likely to work “health risk” night shifts – TUC analysis 

  • Zero-hours workers more likely to do night shifts and are paid on average £4 an hour less  

  • TUC calls for zero-hour contracts to be banned across the economy 

Zero-hours workers are more than twice as likely to work night shifts than other workers, according to new analysis published by the TUC today (Monday). 

The analysis shows that on a range of key measures, zero-hours workers are having a tougher time those in secure employment. 

Nearly a quarter (23%) regularly work through the night, compared to 1 in 10 of the rest of the workforce. 

Night-working has been shown to increase long-term health impacts, such as heart disease, shortened life expectancy and risk of cancer.  

Lower pay: 

People on zero-hour contracts are paid around a third (£4.10) less an hour than other workers.  

This is despite the fact that 1 in 7 (14%) are responsible for supervising other workers. 

Struggling to find work: 

1 in 7 zero-hour workers (16%) do not have work each week. 

Zero-hours workers work on average 25 hours a week, compared to the average worker, who works 36 hours a week. 

The TUC is calling for a ban on zero-hour contracts alongside further action from government to tackle exploitative and insecure work.  

TUC polling shows that two-thirds of zero-hours workers prefer to be on permanent, secure contracts. 

The TUC is marking this year’s HeartUnions week from 11-17th of February, a celebration of the work done by trade unions to support working people across the country.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“The vast majority of people on zero-hour contracts want out. The only flexibility offered to them is what’s good for employers.  

“Zero-hours workers regularly work through the night for low pay, putting their health at risk. And many face the constant uncertainty of not knowing when their next shift will come.  

“We need action from government the now to stamp out these exploitative contracts once and for all.” 


Editors note

- HeartUnions week: is marked by the TUC every year in the week of Valentine’s day, as an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the work that trade unions do to help working people up and down the country every day 

- The median gross hourly pay is £7.70 for ZH workers and £11.80 for those not on ZHCs  

- Looking for a new job: 16% of zero-hour workers are looking for a new or additional job, compared to 7% of those not on ZHCs 

- Night working and zero-hour contracts: 23% of ZH workers have them as a usual part of their working pattern as opposed to 11% of those not on ZHCs  

- Night shifts and the risks to health: A TUC report from 2015 (A Hard Day’s Night) which spoke of the risks to health and work-life balance from night shift working. 

- Not working in a week: In a reference week 16.4% of ZH workers had no work 

- Data on night working, days worked, and pay is taken from the Q2 2018 of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, as this is the most recent with information on zero-hour contracts, accessed through Nesstar. Data on average hours worked, whether looking for new or additional work, and percentage of workers left without work in a reference week is taken from the ONS release, based on the same Q2 2018 LFS data:  

- The TUC surveyed zero-hour workers in 2017, which showed that the majority of ZH workers don’t have access to basic rights such as sick pay, holiday pay and paternity/maternity pay. The full link to the report can be found here:  

- Spread of days worked: 

Days worked 

Zero-hour worker 

Contracted hours worker 















- The TUC is calling on the government to: 

  • Ban zero hours contracts 

  • Introduce a reasonable notice period for shifts, and payment for cancelled shifts 

  • Increase enforcement of workers’ rights; and 

  • Enable trade unions to access workplaces to tell workers how joining a trade union can improve their life at work. 

- 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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