Commenting on research from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) that there could be one million workers on zero hours contracts, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:
“The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.
“Not knowing from week to week what money you have coming in to buy food and pay your bills is extremely nerve-wracking. Having your working hours varied at short notice is also stressful and it makes planning, childcare arrangements and budgeting hard.
“The growing number of zero hours contracts also calls into question Government unemployment figures. It is clear that many people working on these contracts are not included as unemployed, even if they have no work at all – at the very least we have hundreds of thousands who are under-employed. In turn, this plays havoc with the benefit and tax credit system.
“UNISON would like to see the use of these contracts banned – at the very least the Government needs an official investigation to confirm the true scale of the problem.”
A recent Freedom of Information request by UNISON showed that 97% of councils use homecare contracts that don’t guarantee care providers any work from one week to the next. This uncertainty is passed on to already low paid care workers in the form of zero hours contracts. The union is highly critical of the rise in the use of such contracts because they are leading to worse services for the elderly and some of the most vulnerable people in our society.