A letter from Tory minister Esther McVey has revealed that under the new universal credit system, unemployed people face losing their benefits for three months or more if they refuse to take zero hour contract roles, despite fears that such contracts are increasingly tying workers into insecure and low paid employment.
The Scottish Government has previously called on the UK Government to crack down on inappropriate zero hours contracts – for example by ensuring workers on zero hours are given compensation if their shifts are cancelled at short notice.
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP said:
“This apparent shift in policy from the Coalition is cause for concern.
“Zero-hours contracts are not always appropriate and present many people on benefits with real challenges in managing their income. The UK government will be forcing people into uncertain employment and restricting the ability of claimants to seek training or more stable and sustainable employment.
“While zero hours contracts can be beneficial for some jobseekers- students, for example- these contracts are more likely to be offered to women, young people and people over 65.
“In the UK, the number of contacts that do not guarantee minimum hours of work or pay but require workers to be on standby has reached 1.4 million, and the number of employers using such contracts is now one in ten, and the figure rises to almost half of all employers in the tourism, catering and food sector.
“While the UK government is encouraging the use of zero hours contracts, the Scottish Government has been looking at options available to tackle the issue of zero hours contracts within its limited powers. As employment policy is reserved to Westminster, this is yet another example of how we can do things differently, and better, with independence.”