Call for ban on zero-hour contracts as work poverty rises

UK employment may be at a new high, however, the number of people who have a job but live in poverty went up again for the third year in a row, reinforcing the call to ban zero-hour contracts.

This is according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), who found that 56 per cent of people who live in poverty have a job. This is in comparison to 39 per cent 20 years ago.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) reacted to these figures by saying the Government needs to ban zero-hour contracts and increase the minimum wage to £10.

Ms O’Grady said:

The Government must crack down on business models based on poverty pay and insecure jobs. Zero-hour contracts should be banned and the minimum wage must go up to at least £10 an hour right away.

Julian Richer, founder of Richer Sounds at a TUC event, ‘Zero in on Zero Hours’ on the 13/1/20 said:

The UK is one of only seven countries that allows zero-hour contracts.

Just last year (2019), Ireland banned zero-hour contracts with the TUC hoping the UK will follow suit.

Poverty amongst children and pensioners have both increased over the past five years.

The JRF believes “people in every part of our country should be able to progress out of poverty, with access to a good job and a secure, affordable home.” They are calling on the Government to improve job security and quality and make low-cost housing available.

It is also calling on the creation of more flexible jobs to help disabled people transition out of low pay.

Claire Ainsley, executive director of the independent JRF said:

The new government has an historic opportunity as we enter the 2020s. Past successes in recent decades show that it is possible for the UK to loosen the grip of poverty among those most at risk. But this progress has begun to unravel and it will take sustained effort across the country and throughout the governments of the UK to unlock poverty.

Millions of families care for each other, raise their children and work hard without any guarantee that they will escape poverty – governments, employers and landlords all have a role to play in changing this. It’s not right that so many are unable to build a firm foundation to their lives because their jobs are insecure or they can’t find a home they can afford.

Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage said:

This issue of poverty isn’t just down to the government; employers simply aren’t doing enough to support working families and should look at implementing more financial support as an urgent priority.

Savings pots used to be something the majority had, not just the privileged few. Employers can help restore this by offering automatic savings accounts linked to wages, where those who opt in can save without even having to think about it.

Financial education is also key – budgeting tools, workshops and clinics with an external financial advisor are means to getting a workforce out of debt and into managing their money.

Finally, workplace perks such as vouchers for essential buys, including discounts on food shopping can make a huge difference.