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Zero Hours Contracts

Tuesday 11th August 2015

Much talked about during the recent UK General Election was the practice of Zero-Hours Contracts – where workers do not have fixed hours, and in many cases, don’t know whether they’re working from one day to the next. Whether the jobs are in leisure, catering, retail, or other sectors, these kinds of contacts often affect young people.

These roles are sometimes associated with low-pay, insecurity and exploitation, but is that your experience? The Gazette took a moment to gather the thoughts of some BB young people who shared their experiences.

Rachel, 20, Manchester has been a nursery assistant for the last three years. The part-time post was ideal to fit round her studies. However, the lack of regularity brings its difficulties. Rachel explains: “It’s only recently started to become annoying for me as I don’t know when I’ll be in work and sometimes it can be on quite short notice. It has resulted in me being increasingly unmotivated to work, and led me to begin to think about leaving that particular job”. Kris, 22, East Ayrshire, who worked in a relief role for the local authority, had a similar experience. Kris explained: “It suited me because I was at college at the time and could work around this, but as I left college it became a lot more uncertain of hours etc.”

A survey by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development at the end of 2013 indicated that a majority of those on zero hours contracts were happier with their work-life balance than the average UK-based employee. Andrew, 23, Dumbarton has been a security steward for the past three years. He acknowledges the benefits these contracts bring: “When I was looking for the job, I was in University studying and it was highly flexible to suit my academic week. I could work as much or as little I wanted when work was available.” However, his experience wasn’t all positive, as he explains “When work was poor I tended to struggle with paying the regular bills”. Rachel agrees that these working conditions offer greater flexibility, but it’s only better if your circumstances allow: “They are great for those people that do not rely on the income that they gain from the job; however, if you do, then you need a more reliable job with guaranteed hours.”

The research also showed that 16% of zero-hours workers said their employer often failed to provide them with sufficient hours each week.

So are there changes which need to be made? Some prominent politicians and young people’s groups call for an end of the practice of zero-hours contracts. Andrew comments “I think if people want contracted hours they should be entitled to them – especially if the work is available”… and Kris says “I think after a length of time people have to be offered a contract with regular hours. This would have helped me so much when I left college.”

Get more info about Zero-Hours contracts at

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