According to research by the Living Wage Foundation, one in six workers in the UK is stuck in some kind of low paid, insecure form of work, such as a short-term contract or a contract with unpredictable pay and hours.

The research also found that:

  • Over five million workers (two million of whom are parents) earn less than the real living wage and are in a form of insecure work
  • Over a fifth (24 per cent) of workers aged 16 to 24 are employed on insecure contracts
  • Almost one in two employed people (46 per cent) experiencing insecurity and low pay at work are over the age of 35
  • Over a fifth (21 per cent) of the working population in Wales experience low paid, insecure work, 18 per cent in the North East, 15 per cent in London and 13 per cent in Scotland
  • Workers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be affected – 17 per cent of black and Asian workers compared to 15 per cent of white people experience low pay and insecurity at work.

Overall men and women experience similar levels of low paid, insecure work (16 per cent of men compared to 15 per cent of women). However, the kinds of insecurity they face are very different. Men are much more likely to be in low-paid self-employment, while women are disproportionately affected by other kinds of insecurity at work such as hours that change at short notice.

Low paid insecure work is most concentrated in the following sectors:

  • Agriculture, hunting and forestry – 49 per cent
  • Transport, storage and communication – 33 per cent
  • Health and social care – 24 per cent
  • Construction – 21 per cent
  • Hospitality – 21 per cent
  • Wholesale and retail – 18 per cent.

As a result, the Foundation has launched a programme, entitled Living Hours, to tackle insecurity at work. This includes calling on employers to give decent advance notice of shifts (at least four weeks) and the right to a contract that reflects the actual hours worked. 

Emma Game, of Thompsons Solicitors commented, a lack of stability can place a huge burden on individuals both financially and emotionally. Last minute changes to shift patterns result in individuals being unable to budget and plan around other commitments.  We believe that everyone should be entitled to guaranteed hours and hope that organisations will voluntarily sign up to the programme, particularly those who have already committed to paying a Living Wage. 

To read the report in full, go to the Foundation's website