Zero-hours contracts allow bosses to treat workers like disposable labour, says TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has increased by 13% over the past year to reach 905,000.
O’Grady (pictured) commented: “If you’re on a zero-hours contract you have no guarantee of work from one day to another. Put a foot wrong and you can be let go in a heartbeat. Turn down a shift because your kid’s sick and you can be left with little or no work.
“That’s why employment law needs dragging law into the 21st century. Far too many workers do not have the power to challenge bad working conditions.
“Zero-hours contracts can be a nightmare to plan your life around. And are a huge drain on the public finances. The growth in zero-hours working over the last decade is costing the government almost £2bn a year.”
The TUC estimates that the growth of zero-hours working is costing the exchequer £1.9bn a year. This is because zero-hours contract workers earn significantly less than regular employees and therefore pay less tax, pay less National Insurance and are more reliant on tax credits.
Median pay for a zero-hours worker is a third (£3.50) less an hour than for an average employee.
The TUC is today launching a new initiative for workers to share their experiences of insecure work anonymously. The findings of the survey will be presented in May.