Controversial zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid and insecure jobs, according to a new report published today.
An analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that in addition to the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a further 820,000 workers are underemployed – working between 0 and 19 hours a week.
The TUC says that whilst zero-hours contracts have featured heavily in the news, underemployment is blighting the lives of “hundreds of thousands of workers” struggling to make ends meet.
Workers on ‘short-hours contracts’ are typically paid a much lower hourly wage than other workers, the TUC says. The hourly rate for a short-hours worker is just £8.40, compared to an overall average for all employees of £13.20 an hour.
According to the TUC, short-hours contracts “give too much power to the employer” and allows them to escape having to pay National Insurance for their employees.
Like zero-hours contracts, workers on short-hours contracts can be offered as little as one hour paid work each week and have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.
Workers in the retail sector are the hardest hit by low-paid contracts. Nearly 250,000 people working in shops, supermarkets, warehouses and garages are trapped on short-hours – 29% of all underemployed workers. This compares to 16% in the education sector, 14% in food services and 12% of health and social care workers.
The TUC’s report shows that women account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of all workers trapped on short-hours contracts.
Zero-hours and short-hours contracts, along with low-paid and bogus self-employment, have reduced tax revenues and are harming the UK economy, according to the TUC.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.
“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.
“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.
“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”
The report also draws attention to a sharp increase in self-employment, which accounts for 31% of the net rise in employment since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average earning for self-employed people have fallen dramatically by 22% since 2008/09.
New figures published by Eurostat place the UK at 23rd out of 28 for its record on underemployment.
The figures show that UK underemployment is 31% higher than the EU average, which the TUC says is a sign of the Government’s failure to create high-quality jobs.
Frances O’Grady said:
“These figures show what a bad time British people are having at work compared with their European neighbours.
“We have a fragile recovery built on pumped-up house prices, instead of the strong foundation of good quality jobs with decent hours and wages.
“The current approach just isn’t delivering enough high quality jobs to meet demand and it’s leaving too many families struggling to get by on scraps of work.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 27 Apr 2015
Hundreds of thousands of jobseekers could have ‘disappeared’ from official unemployment figures after having their benefit payments docked, figures suggest.
According to research from the University of Oxford, up to 500,000 unemployed people closed their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claim soon after being sanctioned by the DWP.
Rather than moving into employment, these people are simply disappearing from the benefits system entirely and no one has a clue where they’re ending up.
This means that unemployment could be 20,000 to 30,000 higher each month than figures suggest. If true, it would mean that as many as 1,000,000 people would have been claiming JSA in August 2014, rather than the 970,000 widely reported in the press.
It’s also important to note that some groups aren’t included in the claimant count – one measure used to calculate unemployment – including sickness benefit claimants, some working age students and early retirees – among others.
Professor Stuckler, who analysed data from 375 local authorities, said:
“The data clearly show that many people are not leaving JSA for work but appear to be being pushed off in unprecedented numbers in association with sanctions.”
The death of a diabetic former soldier after his benefits were slashed sparked a Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry. More than 210,000 people signed a petition calling for the inquiry.
David, 59, was found dead at his home in Hertfordshire in July 2013. Penniless, David could not afford money for electric to keep his insulin refrigerated and died of fatal diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication caused by lack of insulin.
At the inquiry held last week, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams MP told the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith MP:
“Hundreds of thousands of people have had their benefits stopped for a minimum of four weeks and then approximately a quarter of these people, from the research that I’ve seen, are disappearing.
“They are leaving and we don’t know where they are going. That’s an absolute indictment of this policy and it’s a little bit worrying if we’re trying to tout this internationally as a real success story.”
Iain Duncan Smith responded:
“Well I don’t agree with any of that. I actually believe the sanctions regime as applied is fair, we always get the odd case of …”
Not giving Mr Duncan Smith a chance to complete his sentence, a furious Debbie Abrahams retorted:
“People are dying because of these sanctions!”
Jobseekers who fail to comply with strict requirements imposed upon them risk having their benefits docked, or ‘sanctioned’. Some unemployed people claim their benefit payments have been stopped or reduced for trivial or harsh reasons. Such as failing to turn-up to a Job Centre appointment, even though they have informed staff they were in hospital.
After the Select Committee hearing Debbie Abrahams said:
“It’s incredible that the minister can simply brush aside the mounting evidence that inappropriate use of social security sanctions is having on vulnerable people.
> Well, glad you’ve noticed it’s happening. The rest of us have known this since Day 1.
“We’ve already heard from a whistleblower who left his job as a JCP advisor because he refused to apply sanctions when people had done nothing wrong.
“And recently, over 200,000 people have signed a petition to look into the death of an ex-soldier and diabetic, from Stevenage, who died after having been sanctioned.
“He was found dead surrounded by job applications, penniless and with an empty stomach according to his post-mortem. He couldn’t even afford to run his fridge so couldn’t keep his medicines cold.
“Sanctions are being applied unfairly to job-seekers as well as the sick and disabled. And we shouldn’t forget that most people on social security are actually in work but are struggling to make ends meet.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 12 Nov 2014