Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A nightmare for workers

The number of workers on a zero-hours contract for their main job stood at 801,000 in late 2015, up by 104,000 from a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said. That meant 2.5% of the employed UK workforce was on such a contract. ONS statistician Nick Palmer said "There's also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline."

1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in November, meaning that many workers had more than one zero-hours contract. Those on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young people, part-time workers, women, or those in full-time education when compared with other people in employment. Someone on a zero-hours contract worked an average of 26 hours a week. About a third of those on a zero-hours contract wanted to work longer, with most wanting more hours in their current job, as opposed to a different job that offered more hours. In comparison, only 10% of other people in other types of employment wanted more hours, the ONS said.

The TUC condemned the rise in zero-hours contracts as "a nightmare for workers". TUC research found that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers were £188, compared with £479 for permanent employees.

Young couples and families in the UK are £900 a year worse off compared with a decade ago. After inflation is taken into account, the latest figures show that the average disposable income for households headed by people in their late 20s is stuck below 2004/5 levels. Disposable income is that which is left after direct taxes such as national insurance, income and council tax and these figures have been adjusted to reflect the composition of different household types. Despite a rise in employment in recent years, the average disposable income of couples and families in the latter half of their 20s is still suffering from the effects of the 2008 financial crash. The figure for households headed by someone in their late 20s stood at £33,300 in 2007-08 but was hit badly by the financial crisis, dropping 15% by 2011-12. It took until last year for it to rise back above £30,000.

The third strike by junior doctors in their contract row with the government in England is under way. The walkout started at 08:00 GMT and will last 48 hours - the longest one so far - but medics are once again providing emergency cover in hospitals. Dr Johann Malawana, the BMA's junior doctor leader, said: "We deeply regret disruption to patients, and have given trusts as much notice as possible to plan ahead, but the government has left junior doctors with no choice. Ministers have made it clear they intend to impose a contract that is unfair on junior doctors and could undermine the delivery of patient care in the long term."

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