Managing staff in precarious work and zero-hours contracts

Half of workers in insecure work said their mental health was affected by shift cancellations.

by Anthony Painter

Diana is facing a tough start to 2024. Christmas bills are due and as a single mother to a child with special needs, she is balancing her part-time receptionist job with her son's care and still trying to recover from his routine being upended over the holidays. Diana’s zero-hours contract adds an extra layer of stress when her shifts are cancelled on short or no notice, leaving her with unpredictable income and sometimes with child care costs that she no longer needs.

Research into the realities of insecure work from the Work Foundation, found that Diana is far from alone, with 34% of workers in insecure work saying they experienced at least one shift cancellation with less than 48 hours’ notice. Perhaps not surprisingly, 50% of those workers said their mental well-being suffered as a result of the changes.

Just under one in five UK workers—6.2 million people —are now in "insecure jobs", defined as low pay, temporary or part-time roles with contractual insecurity and very limited access to workers' rights. And given we face a crisis of workers leaving the jobs market whilst vacancies remain high, this really matters both for the financial health of the individuals, but also the wider productivity challenge facing the economy.

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