22 January 2018
Researchers at the Universities of Sheffield and Greenwich have found that taking on casual work is unlikely to lead to a permanent job, and significantly increases people’s risk of unemployment.
The study of nearly 20,000 workers, which was commissioned by the TUC, found that people who have been on temporary contracts or without guaranteed hours for at least a year are five times more likely to become jobless than permanent employees.
Further, they were more vulnerable to anxiety, less satisfied in their jobs, and reported experiences of bullying, draconian targets, surveillance by employers, and constant insecurity regarding the future.
One zero-hours contract (ZHC) worker explained: “The thing with the ZHC – it’s not just the so-called flexibility, i.e. you don’t know how many hours you’re going to get from one week to the next – what’s the real issue here is, the fact that they can get rid of people like that. People can turn up and be told they are not wanted. And that’s fear.”
A parcel delivery driver described their relationship with her manager: “He’s physically tracking me through that scanner, and I’ve asked him not to. I haven’t given him consent to do it. He told me he wanted to know when I was stood at a door, when I scanned the parcel, and what time I was there. I feel like Big Brother’s watching me. It’s awful. I can’t do my job correctly … I’m stressed.”
One higher education worker without guaranteed hours described how the “flexibility” of casual work only applies to employers in reality: “I never say no to anything. It’s the mentality that I think, that if you want to leave a good impression you need to show that you are hyper-flexible, hyper ready to help. You know, you like to show that whatever is offered to you, you don’t refuse it.”
“Rarely” did any of these sacrifices lead to better, more secure, work, the study found.
The findings contradict the oft-used argument that the availability of casual employment is beneficial for both workers and employers, with both government ministers and the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices insisting that workers choose casual roles for “flexibility” in their working arrangements.
This comes after a separate poll by the TUC found that the main reason people settled for zero-hour contracts was because they couldn’t find anything better.
General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, said: “People are often told that casual contracts are a stepping stone to finding better work.
“But for many this isn’t the case. Instead of improving their career prospects, lots of casual workers find themselves dropping out of work altogether, or they’re at the mercy of bad bosses who treat them like disposable labour.
“Every job should be a great job, but far too many workers in the UK feel insecure at work.”