Socialist Worker

Almost four million people face low pay and insecure work

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2765

Deliveroo workers on a protest against insecure work

Deliveroo workers on a protest against insecure work (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Around 3.7 million people in Britain face low-paid insecure work, according to new research by the Living Wage Foundation.

The research, published on Thursday, suggests that many often receive less than 24 hours notice for their shifts or work schedules.

Some 12 percent of workers paid less than the living wage receive under a day's notice for their work schedules, the study found. And 50 percent received less than a week’s notice.

Almost half face shifts being cancelled last minute, often resulting in no pay.

Insecure workers earn less than the real living wage of £9.50 an hour—or £10.85 in London.

And according to the study, these workers were much more likely to have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lack of job security on zero hour contracts—or no contract at all—allows bosses to sack almost at will.

The study's analysis of government figures shows that almost half of insecure, low-paid workers were “away from work” compared to less than a fifth of other workers. This is partly down to bosses in hospitality and entertainment, where insecure work is rife, using the furlough scheme.

The Living Wage Foundation has highlighted how millions of people are up against some form of work insecurity.

Volatile 

This can include volatile pay, varying or spontaneous hours or doing work that doesn't make use of someone's skills.

Graham Griffiths, the director of the Living Wage Foundation said, “Insecure work has been a consistent feature of the labour market over the past 20 years.

“The result is millions of people unable to get the hours and the pay they need to meet their everyday needs.

“Over the past year this problem has been exacerbated, with many low paid workers in insecure jobs also more likely to lose work.”

He called for “an economy built on jobs with decent pay and secure hours” as “we look to recover from the huge damage of the pandemic”.

The Living Wage Foundation has launched a programme to push organisations to provide guaranteed, secure hours and payment if shifts are cancelled.

While Labour has made noises about workers’ rights, it remains desperate to cosy up to big business interests.

Keir Starmer’s relaunch on Monday gave vague promises of “fairer workplaces” while proposing concrete policies to help bosses.

Unions must organise workers to take on low-paid, insecure work. Recent fights by people in insecure work, such as delivery drivers, shows it’s still possible to organise and fight back. 


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