New research from the Living Wage Foundation has found that 10% of UK workers – around 3.4 million people – are in low-paid and insecure jobs.
The survey, carried out among more than 2,000 employees, revealed that nearly one in five (19%) are in insecure employment, representing 6.1 million people.
Workers most affected by insecurity are those least able to manage their financial burdens, according to the study. It discovered that that low-paid staff – such as cleaners, some NHS employees and couriers – were around five times more likely to be in insecure roles than those who earn at least the real living wage, at 55% versus 11% respectively.
The research also found that insecure work is not equally spread between employees, as minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in low-paid insecure work than white workers, at 13% compared to 10% respectively.
Nearly three in five (59%) of shift workers had been given under a week’s notice of their working hours, with more than one in ten (13%) receiving fewer than 24 hours. A quarter (24%) of these employees had their shifts cancelled unexpectedly, with nine in 10 (90%) not being compensated at their full pay rate.
Additionally, women are much more likely to be on zero-hours contracts than men, despite being employed in insecure posts at a fairly similar rate, with females holding 55% of zero-hour contracts.
The Living Wage Foundation’s Living Hours scheme encourages employers to commit to providing at least four weeks of notice for every individual’s shift, with payment still made if they are cancelled during the notice period. Under the scheme, employees are also 16 hours a week of guaranteed work, unless they ask for fewer, and are given contracts that accurately reflect the number of hours worked. Nearly 100 employers have so far gained Living Hours accreditation, including Aviva, SpareRoom and Wealthify, with almost 50,000 UK workers now covered by the measures.
Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “It is shocking that 3.4 million workers are facing the cost-of-living crisis in low-paying jobs with unstable working hours, making planning a life and a budget impossible.”
She added: “That is why we’re calling on employers to join those who have already stepped up during this crisis and commit to provide workers with Living Hours – secure, guaranteed hours and notice of shift patterns – alongside a real living wage. Action is required by both employer and the government to make this a reality in health and social care but it’s an investment that will benefit care workers and their families and is vital for the sector and wider society as our need for care continues to grow.”