Citizens Advice warns that many of the 4.5 million people (equivalent to about 14% of the working population) it classes as being in insecure work do not have regular hours or predictable shifts and so struggle to manage their budgets or plan ahead.
The charity highlighted the debt problems and difficulties accessing in-work benefits for the millions of people who do not have fixed, regular working hours. Its analysis of official figures published on Monday has revealed more than 2.3 million people are working variable shift patterns, a further 1.1 million are on temporary contracts and 800,000 are on either zero-hour or agency contracts.
Zero-hours contracts, which are widely used in the retail industry and do not guarantee employees any work from week to week, have been back in the spotlight this month after the billionaire Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley, admitted his company had broken the law by failing to pay staff the national minimum wage. Ashley’s admission last week to MPs investigating his firm’s treatment of its workers, confirmed the findings of a Guardian investigation last year in which undercover reporters exposed how the company was paying staff less than the legal minimum and subjected them to a harsh regime of surveillance and financial penalties for lateness.