Zero-hours contracts on the decline in Scotland – but rise by 101,000 across UK

Holyrood - Edinburgh. Photo credit: DSC_0696 via photopin (license)

New figures obtained by George Adam MSP reveal that Scotland has a lower proportion of working-age people on zero-hours contracts, when compared to the UK as a whole.

The data shows that the number of zero-hours contracts in Scotland dropped by 2,000 to 57,000 over the last 12 months.

However, the UK as a whole has around 905,000 workers trapped on the “exploitative” contracts – up by 101,000 in the last year alone.

According to the data, 2.8% of workers in the UK are now on zero-hours contracts, falling to 2.2% in Scotland.

Zero-hours employment is notoriously insecure and offers no guarantee of hours. Those on the contracts are frequently denied the same rights as other workers in more secure employment.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) say the figures show that Scotland is leading by example in delivering fair work and called, and has called on Labour to support full powers over employment laws for the Scottish Parliament.

The SNP also say they back a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts but argue the power remains reserved for the UK Government, who they claim has yet to show any willingness to take the action required to deliver job security and fairer working conditions.

George Adam MSP said:  “Zero-hours contracts can and are being used to exploit workers; I have had numerous constituents contacting me about this punitive practice that needs curbed.

“Employees are too often denied regular or sufficient working hours or penalised for not being available to work.

“This is a root cause of poverty and has a negative knock-on effect in households and communities across the country.

“The SNP believes the exploitative use of these contracts – where there is no specific justification for their use or where they are used to deny giving workers the protections they are due – should be banned.

“Every worker should have appropriate rights and protections, including holiday and sick pay.

“The SNP has consistently argued for the full devolution of employment and equalities law, including minimum wage powers.

“If the Tories won’t take action at Westminster, we’ll get on with the job in the Scottish Parliament.

“Labour might talk big about workers’ rights but they helped stop Scotland gaining full powers on employment; they should now welcome these figures and work with the SNP to help deliver stronger workers’ rights and conditions in Scotland and across the UK.”

The call comes three weeks after a report found young people on zero-hours contracts are less likely to be in good health and more likely to suffer from mental health problems.

The report’s lead author, Dr Morag Henderson, said: “Millennials have faced a number of challenges as they entered the world of work.

“They joined the labour market at the height of the most recent financial crisis and faced higher than ever university fees and student loan debt.

“There is evidence that those with a precarious relationship to the labour market, such as shift workers, zero-hours contract holders and the unemployed are more at risk of poor mental health and physical health than their peers.

“One explanation for these findings is that financial stress or the stress associated with having a low-status job increases the risk of poor mental health.

“It may also be that the worry of having no work or irregular work triggers physical symptoms of stress, including chest pain, headaches and muscle tension.”