Zero-hours staff job fears revealed
Workers on zero-hours contracts and irregular hours are afraid to speak out about their rights for fear of losing their job, a new report has revealed.
A study by Citizens Advice showed that people contacting a bureau for help are more likely to have fluctuating hours or shift patterns than a year ago.
A survey of more than 300 staff at 100 CAB offices in England and Wales showed that irregular hours were as much of an issue as zero-hours contracts, which have attracted political and union criticism over the past year.
Most of the staff surveyed said people with fluctuating work have problems with debt or childcare and face delays to benefits.
Seven out of 10 staff said they were aware of cases where someone's hours or shifts worsened after they turned down work, or took holiday or sick leave.
"Budgeting, cutting down on fuel costs and being able to pay day-to-day bills is very difficult when you don't know how much work you will get," said the report.
"Not being able to show steady income or guaranteed future income can also be a barrier for people trying to get a mortgage or even privately rent a home."
Last year more than 220,000 people contacted Citizens Advice seeking help with employment problems.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "We need flexibility in the labour market, but not at the cost of fairness. The combination of low pay and unpredictable work patterns leaves too many people facing an uphill struggle to make ends meet from one month to the next.
"Zero-hours contracts have hit the headlines but many more workers are struggling at the sharp end of insecure jobs and unscrupulous employers.
"The next government needs to consider how to ease some of the downsides of flexible work patterns and make sure people in second-choice jobs don't fall prey to in-work poverty."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Exploitative zero-hours contracts are a gift for bad employers who can effectively hire and fire staff at will.
"Zero-hours contracts shift almost all power from the worker and give it to their boss. Anyone on such a contract has no guarantee of any work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong, and you can find yourself with little or no work."
Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to ban "exploitative" zero-hours contracts if he wins the General Election.
The issue has become hotly debated, with unions pressing Labour to pledge to ban the contracts altogether.
The Prime Minister was pressed about the contracts during his TV interview last week, saying only one in 50 jobs were zero-hours contracts, and insisting they suited some people, including students who wanted flexibility.
Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell told MPs last week that 4,300 of the firm's 19,000 staff were permanent, with the rest employed as casuals, on zero-hours contracts.
They were told on a Thursday how many hours they would work the following week, he said.