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Zero Hours Contracts Exposed: Workers left with 'no hours, no pay, no security and no chance'

Thousands of working Scots are on the edge of poverty, due to the mis-use of Zero Hours Contracts by rogue employers. That’s the finding of a new report published today (Wednesday) 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, our report today 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. Among the findings:

  • 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 this job, and having to turn to debt or foodbanks if their hours are cut.

 Publishing today’s report, CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh says,

 “Zero Hours Contracts are meant to provide flexibility for employers and workers alike. 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.  

“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. 

“There are 1.4million people on ZHCs across the UK. They tend to be aged under 25 or over 65. Over half of them are women, and the areas they work in are those like catering, tourism, food and care.  

“In highlighting these cases we hope to persuade employers that they should do right by their staff, and also to open a dialogue with government about how to improve the system to make sure this kind of exploitation doesn’t occur. We make a number of recommendations in the report, and we want to engage with Ministers, Unions and others to discuss ways to ensure a fair deal for all workers.  

“We also want to get the message to any worker who is on a Zero Hours Contract. You have rights, and we can help you to stand up for them. If you are unhappy with your contract or unsure of your rights, contact your local CAB and we will help you, with free confidential advice. Nobody in 2014 should be in a position where they are working, but don’t have the security of an actual income.”

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