What Unemployed People Really Think of Zero Hours Contracts


Zero hours contracts, an agreement whereby employers can hire staff with no guarantee of work1, have been hitting the headlines for some time now. We wanted to go beyond the news to uncover how unemployed adults felt about these contracts. In new research out from Glassdoor2, we sought to find out what people think of jobs where there is no guarantee of work and understand how likely they are to accept this type of contract, why they would accept them or not, and how practical they are as an employment option.

Below are eight things you didn’t know about zero hours contracts:

  • Nearly half would rather stay unemployed

Glassdoor research revealed that nearly half of unemployed people surveyed who were offered a contract would choose ‘no job’ over taking a ‘zero hours contract’. With 23 percent of unemployed people having been offered a zero hours contract, nearly half of those (47 percent) tell us they outright turned down the offer of potential employment

  • They aren’t guaranteed to be better than benefit payments

Over half of respondents polled who had been offered (and subsequently rejected) a zero hours contract (54 percent) told us that in order to stop their benefit payments, they would need to receive a guaranteed level of income, which zero hours simply cannot provide. For many who have been out of work for a number of years, the offer of a zero hours contract is not attractive enough or financially viable.

  • People don’t trust them

Trust is key to any working relationship or environment. If you don’t trust the company you work for then ultimately it will impact on your attitude and performance. Our research revealed that a 44 percent of respondents who had been offered (and subsequently rejected) a zero hours contract wouldn’t trust any employer offering this sort of contract.

  • Irregular working hours are good for 19 percent, but don’t suit everyone

It’s hard enough trying to look after a family and kids when you do a regular 9-5 (if that even exists these days). But not knowing when you’re needed, for how long, and on what day, is very challenging. The study revealed that nearly a third of respondents (30 percent) who had been offered (and subsequently rejected) a zero hours contract felt unhappy at having to work irregular hours. You could imagine that this might result in an inability to plan and might affect work/ life balance.

  • Some would work harder despite reputation

A large chunk of respondents (25 percent) keen to get back to work on a full-time basis told us that a zero hours contract could be their route into a permanent role, meaning they’d work even harder to try and make a good first impression. We must also never underestimate the power of media in influencing decisions and opinions. Yet again the weight of negative press coverage has meant that 13 percent of respondents would never even consider taking up the offer of a zero hours contract and are totally ‘put off’ by negative media opinion.

  • Accepting an offer is normally a necessity rather than a choice

People who take zero hours contracts generally do so because they feel they have to. This could be interpreted as employers exploiting the most vulnerable, namely people who really need the money. Our research suggest that 69 percent of respondents who had accepted a zero hours contract in the past had done so simply because they needed the money with 37 percent telling us they had no choice in the matter.

  • Many don’t even know the implications

The research also explored awareness levels of zero hours contracts amongst unemployed adults in the UK. It seems one in five do not know what a zero hours contract even is, leaving this group the most vulnerable to accepting one of these deals without knowing the implications. This figure rises to 28 per cent of those that are out of work in London (where awareness is lowest) and falls to just 13 percent in the Midlands (where awareness is highest).

  • Some people actually quite like them

For some it was seen as a useful stop-gap, especially if job seekers had been out of work for a while, looking to cover bills, rent, general living costs and of course add valuable work experience to the resume. A large proportion (69 percent) accepted a zero hours contract because they needed the money and 13 percent claimed they’d rather have a job than claim benefits.

If you get offered a zero hours contract, make sure you know the general attitude of that employer towards staff. Are people on zero hours contracts valued or just viewed as an ‘extra pair of hands’? What is the attitude of senior management towards staff and would you get the same benefits as permanent staff? If you are considering going down this route, make sure you check Glassdoor’s company reviews to find out more about a company’s culture and work environment.

 

1Zero-hours contracts, or casual contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. They mean employees work only when they are needed by employers, often at short notice. Their pay depends on how many hours they work

 2The survey of 1,001 unemployed adults was conducted online by Opinion Matters on behalf of Glassdoor from 8 -14h May, 2015.

 

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