Young people employed on zero-hours contracts are more likely to have worse mental and physical health than peers with more stable positions, a study has found.
The study, conducted by the UCL Institute of Education, found 25-year-olds employed on contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of work hours were 41% less likely to report having good physical health compared with those with secure contracts.
Young people on zero-hours contracts were also one-and-a-half times more likely to report having a mental health problem compared with someone on a more secure employment contract.
The study’s lead author, Dr Morag Henderson, said: “Millennials have faced a number of challenges as they entered the world of work. They joined the labour market at the height of the most recent financial crisis and faced higher than ever university fees and student loan debt.” She said one likely cause for the negative impact of zero-hours contracts on mental health was financial stress or anxiety “associated with having a low-status job”. She added the worry of not having regular work could trigger physical symptoms such as chest pain.
People on zero-hours contracts do not have set working hours a week, although they must be available to come in when needed. There were 1.7m zero-hours contracts in the UK in November 2016, making up 6% of all employment contracts.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said: “If you don’t know how much work you will have from one day to the next, this is bound to impact on your health and mental wellbeing. Employers must not be allowed to get away with treating workers like disposable labour.”