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Report Reveals Abuse of Zero Hours Contracts

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Mis-use of Zero Hours Contracts is leaving thousands of working Scots on the edge of poverty, according to a new report published by Citizens Advice Scotland.

Zero Hours Contracts (ZHCs) allow the employer to vary the amount of hours a person works, week by week. The system is meant to allow flexibility for both employers and workers.

However, the report reveals that Scottish CABs have reported a sharp rise this year in the numbers of clients who are in financial crisis because of their ZHC. The report found that:

  • Some workers go for long periods with few hours, or none at all, and therefore little or no pay.
  • Others have hours which fluctuate widely from week to week, or changes imposed at short notice - making it hard for them to plan their finances.
  • Some employers don’t tell their staff the job is a ZHC when they are taken on.
  • In a few cases, employers have drastically cut an employee’s hours in what seems like an effort to force them to resign.
  • Workers on ZHCs often can’t claim any benefit or tax credits, making them entirely reliant on the income from their job, and having to turn to debt or food banks if their hours are cut.

According CAS figures, there are 1.4 million people on ZHCs across the UK, the majority of whom are aged under 25 or over 65. Over half of them are women, and they often work in sectors such as catering, tourism, food and care.  

“Zero Hours Contracts are meant to provide flexibility for employers and workers alike,” explained CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh. “They are not suitable for everyone, but they can be a useful option for some people - as long as the system is applied fairly.

“However, we see growing evidence that the system is in fact being abused by some employers, who are frankly mis-using it to exploit their workers,” he said. 

“It seems that the flexibility in the system often lies with the employer, not with the worker.  And too often workers are left with no hours, no pay, no security and no chance,” he added.

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For specialist employment law advice, including advice on contracts of employment, please contact our solicitors today. Call us on 0141 576 4808 or fill in the enquiry form to the right of this page.


We have specialised for 10 years in providing employment law advice and representation at Employment Tribunals. We provide employment law advice both to employers and to employees.

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