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Workers exploited through zero-hours contracts

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There has been an “alarming” increase in the use of casual labour across the UK, and in Scotland in particular, according to an interim report published by the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee.

The report has called for the Government to use all the levers at its disposal, including legislation, to change this.

The Committee says the Government’s consultation on zero hours contracts is too narrow:  it is focused on exclusivity and transparency but the Committee says addressing those concerns will do little to help workers who are exploited by unscrupulous employers.

Evidence presented to the Committee has apparently revealed that:

  • 20% of workers on zero hours contracts are paid less than their permanent equivalents doing the same job,
  • 5% are paid less than the national minimum wage, despite this being illegal,
  • thousands of social care workers are illegally denied payment for time spent travelling between appointments,
  • 40% receive no notice of employment,
  • 6% turn up for work  - having paid for childcare, travel etc - to find none available,
  • thousands of others’ employers evade the provision of basic employment rights, and
  • zero hours workers are entitled to limited employment rights but a significant proportion of employers are either ignorant of those rights or are wilfully blocking access to them.

The Committee says that it accepts there are some exceptional circumstances where workers will be happy to be on zero hours contracts and, if both parties are satisfied, then this should continue.

However, it heard evidence of far too many situations where mutuality of obligation is patently not the case and zero hours are being used with little justification by unscrupulous employers who simply want to shirk their responsibilities and exploit their workforce.

The report is an interim one, timed to contribute to the UK Government’s consultation on zero hours.

Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v1.0.

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