New research by the TUC has found that significantly more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers are on zero-hours contracts than white workers (4.3 per cent compared to three per cent).

BME women are the most disproportionately affected group – they are twice as likely to be on such contracts compared to white men (4.7 per cent compared to 2.4 per cent), followed by BME men (4.7 per cent as opposed to four per cent).

White women are also significantly more likely than white men to be on zero-hours contracts (3.6 per cent compared to 2.4 per cent).

According to the TUC, the latest figures published by the ONS show that over one million workers are now on these contracts, equating to a rise of 40,000 compared to the previous year.

One of the many reasons for opposing zero-hours contracts is that workers never know how much they will earn each week, making it hard for them to plan their lives. This level of insecurity poses particular challenges for women, who tend to bear more caring responsibilities than men.

BME workers are also over-represented in insecure jobs, which have limited rights and face disproportionately high Covid-19 mortality rates, as well as low pay. They have also borne the brunt of the economic downturn which has accompanied the pandemic.

Recent TUC analysis also found that BME unemployment rates were more than twice the rates for white workers. Again, BME women have been at the sharp end – around one in 12 are now unemployed compared to around one in 29 white workers.

More broadly, women have faced serious challenges because of the pandemic. Working mums took on the lion’s share of childcare when the schools closed, with many sacrificing hours and pay to do so.

And women are more likely to be in key frontline jobs such as social care that have experienced greater risks from coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as being more likely to work in some of the hardest hit sectors like retail and hospitality.

To help tackle these inequalities in the labour market, the TUC is calling for:

  • A ban on zero-hours contracts, by giving workers a right to a contract which reflects their normal hours of work
  • Decent notice of shifts and compensation for cancelled shifts
  • The introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting to highlight pay disparities faced by BME workers.

To read the report in full, click here.