Campaign group Zero Hours Justice calls on Grey Court School, the Richmond academy, to properly pay its invigilators for the work cancelled due to Covid-19.
Despite the unprecedented support from the government to help employers pay staff while closed, invigilators have been one of the groups that have fallen through the cracks.
Grey Court School, which is part of multi-academy trust Every Child Every Day, has declined to furlough any of its 20 invigilators on 80% pay. Instead, it made a “gesture” offer of 35% of the pay that invigilators would have received.
When challenged on the level of their offer, they then offered a further 35% as a loan that
would be paid back through deductions of 10% from future pay.
Pravin Jeyaraj, Communications Officer for Zero Hours Justice, said: “Thirty-five percent may sound like a lot for someone on a professional wage such as a teacher or headmaster. But, for a zero hours contract or casual worker on the London Living Wage, 35% is a paltry amount that for makes it impossible to live. It is particularly galling for those invigilators represented by us that, had Grey Court School furloughed them, they would have received 80% of their pay.
“The offer of a loan that, due to the nature of invigilation, would end up being paid back over three years was adding insult to injury.”
Grey Court School’s excuse for not paying invigilators fairly was that they had lost income from bookings of their premises that could not take place because of Covid-19. But this was precisely the situation that the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was meant to address.
All 20 invigilators wished to remain anonymous out of fear that going public might affect their chances of future work.
One invigilator, A, said: “I’ve been employed as an exams invigilator at Grey Court since 2008 and I’m really disappointed with the salary proposal.”
Another invigilator, B, said: “How can the budget be exhausted when the exams have been cancelled and the invigilators (including myself) have not been paid? If anything, the budget is untouched and fully available to do what it was intended to do, which is meet the cost of paying invigilators.”
A third invigilator, C, said: “Who can afford to take a 65% cut in salary? What I would normally receive for working virtually full-time through the exams season is a significant part of my annual income.”
A fourth invigilator, D, said: “I tried to explain to my employer that the Government schemes and guidance has been put in place to enable them to support their staff during this difficult period. His cold hearted response was to offer me a 35% loan. I was so shocked!”
A fifth invigilator, E, said: “It seems that invigilators across the country are not really respected by schools. My school informed me, pretty much, that I was lucky to receive any offer of payment at all.”
There is no obligation for employers to pay staff for cancelled shifts, which is a big problem for all zero hours contracts staff. However, in July 2019, the Department for Business, Energy and Industry consulted on various proposals that would benefit flexible workers, including compensation where shifts are cancelled at short notice. The proposals were proposed by the Low Pay Commission.
Zero Hours Justice was launched in January 2020 by a coalition of concerned citizens to:
It is led by Ian Hodson, who is also president of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, and founded and funded by Julian Richer, the founder of Richer Sounds and author of “The Ethical Capitalist”.
Last year, Julian Richer, the founder and funder of Zero Hours Justice, was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to Retail at the 2019 Retail Week Awards.
In this year's UK Retail 100 List, produced by industry magazine Retail Week, for continuing to push the importance of ethical business practices.
After handing over control of his business, Richer Sounds, to a workers' ownership trust, he launched Zero Hours Justice, which provides information and advice to zero hours contract works and campaigns to stop employers from imposing unilateral zero hours contracts on its workers.
In the UK Retail 100 List report, Zero Hours Justice is described as "the latest initiative from a retail leader who has consistently argued that treating people well sits at the heart of business success, and whose influence has been brought to bear on other retailers, including Marks & Spencer where he [Richer] is an advisor".
Today, Zero Hours Justice ran an full-page advert in The Guardian, calling on all employers to furlough zero hours contract staff if they are unable to offer work.
The advert was a response to the number of enquiries we have received from zero hours contract workers, who found themselves without work and without pay, because the coronavirus lockdown meant employers were unable to offer certain services.
The government guidance on its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is clear: employees with variable payment, including zero hours staff, are eligible to be furloughed. We completely understand that some private sector employers may be put in financial difficulty, because they still have to find the money to pay 80% of staff wages and then claim it back.
Nevertheless, at least employers can claim it back - the only option for zero hours contract staff not receiving furlough pay is to claim Universal Credit, but why should they have to resort to this?
But we also find it completely unacceptable that some public sector employers, including local authorities and NHS trusts, are neither offering work to zero hours contract staff nor furloughing them. We believe that this is due to the government guidance, which does not prevent public sector employers from using the Job Retention Scheme but clearly seeks to discourage them from doing so.
You can download a copy of our advert in The Guardian below:
COVID-19 AND THE UNFAIRNESS OF UK GOVERNMENT "HELP" MAKES THE LIVES OF ZERO HOURS WORKERS HARDER AND MORE PRECARIOUS THAN EVER
By Peter Stefanovic
For those of the million on breadline zero hours contracts, the future is now more uncertain than ever despite the government’s plan to pay 80% of wages for employees out of work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK Government's Coronavirus job retention scheme as presently constituted leaves many workers on zero hours contracts out in the cold.
In theory it should be simple. The Chancellor says the scheme will cover everybody who is paid via PAYE through a company, with the state reimbursing the employer 80% of your salary up to a maximum of £2500/month. The problem is many zero-hours contract workers are not on PAYE, so won’t be eligible for the scheme and even worse the scheme only applies if you earn more than £118/week and where companies decide to take it up. Over the past week many zero hours contract workers have simply had their hours reduced to little or nothing.
Even if they fall within the scheme what good is eighty percent of a poverty wage which is what many workers on zero contracts were getting in the first place?
Its easy to forget in the present crisis that whilst employment may have been at a new high before the pandemic hit, the number of people who had a job but lived in poverty had just risen for the third year in a row. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found 56% of people living in poverty had a job! Even before this pandemic, many zero hours contract workers were living hand to mouth. How has this suddenly been forgotten? Eighty percent of a poverty wage isn’t going feed families when they were barely surviving on the wage they got.
If an employer can't be bothered to take the Coronavirus job retention scheme up or refuses to because of the cash flow burden it places on a company, the zero hours contract worker can do little more than apply for universal credit. Even if they can access UC quickly, which is unlikely given more than half a million people have applied for for it in the last nine days alone, how are they supposed to pay their bills and feed their families on £94 a week! Even Health Secretary Matt Hancock says he couldn’t live on it!
The reality for many of the country's million zero hours contract workers is that for all the good Government has done for others, the reality is that it has yet again left them at best with scraps on the table.
It’s simply not right, it’s not fair and it certainly isn’t just!
DO YOU HAVE A STORY TO TELL ABOUT HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED YOU ADVERSELY AS A ZERO HOURS WORKER? LET US KNOW - MAYBE WE CAN HELP. Click here
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT TO PROTECT ZERO HOURS CONTRACT WORKERS DURING CORONAVIRUS CRISIS - BUT IS IT ENOUGH?
By Pravin Jeyaraj and James Johnson-Flint
Zero Hours Justice welcomes the Government's plan to pay up to 80% of the salary of retained non-working employees of UK businesses suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
But we are extremely concerned about the holes in this package of help and lack of clarity, especially for the most vulnerable on zero hours contracts.
Two days after the announcement, it is still unclear how zero hours workers will be covered. Those sectors, such as food and hospitality, that have been hardest hit - with sales now at zero - may not have the cash or kindness to continue to keep people on at a cost of 20%. They may have already taken action to lay such workers off.
According to the latest employment figures, the food and hospitality sector has the biggest proportion of its workers who are on zero hours contracts.
On Friday 20th March, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the setting up of the Coronovirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will provide a grant to any employer "to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off."
In other words, anyone who is asked to stop working - but is not laid off or made redundant - because of the coronavirus pandemic - will still be paid. There was however no specific mention in the Chancellor's speech of how this affects the around one million workers on zero hours contracts. However, in media questions that followed, he did say that zero hours contract workers will be protected too, although how is not clear. We are concerned that where workers have irregular hours, because of the very nature of the precarious employment so many are forced to accept, this may affect what they receive adversely, if they are lucky to be retained.
Where an employer chooses not apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, zero hours contract workers can apply for Universal Credit. The Universal Credit standard allowance is being increased by £1,000 a year, for the next 12 months. In addition, £1bn is being added to the Universal Credit budget, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents in the area. Improvements on where we were last week, yes, but still a stressful and financially precarious position so many will be in.
Is this enough?? We fear not and the days ahead will show just how much hardship those on zero hours contracts are likely to have to endure, due to no fault of their own.
The Russell Group, representing 24 leading universities, has just announced that they will be examining how certain short-term contracts are used.
Zero Hours Justice welcomes aspects of the Russell Group’s announcement, which includes the statement that:
“An area we are all concerned about is how some short-term contracts are used. On the one hand there will always be a need for flexibility: institutions need this, some staff prefer this and it can also create real opportunities. However, we recognise that over-reliance on some forms of employment models and associated contractual arrangements may not serve the best interests of staff, for example in supporting their development and career aspirations. Ultimately, they may also impact on the wider academic mission and the staff and student experience at university.
We believe there is now an urgent need and an opportunity to address these challenges. Working collectively and individually across the Russell Group, we have all committed to collaborate on this to make real progress. We have started by establishing a small working group of senior leaders that will gather and analyse examples of best practice and ensure this is shared across all our universities."
Responding to the announcement, James Johnson-Flint, Director of Zero Hours Justice said:
“We are encouraged by The Russell Group’s announcement that they are at last looking to put an end to their sometime inappropriate use of zero hours contracts. Importantly, and not covered in the announcement, this needs to include those employed indirectly via outsourcing contractors or agencies, who provide significant numbers of cleaners, caterers, security and other essential workers to these establishments.
Large numbers of these workers have for years worked hand to mouth under zero hours contracts and received no more than the minimum wage with no guarantee from day to day that they will be given enough hours to feed their kids or pay their rent.”
“It has been recognised for some years that the UK’s leading universities are some of the worst offenders in higher education with regard to the employment of academics and other workers on insecure zero hours or minimal hours contracts. To get admission that inappropriate use of these contracts may not serve the best interests of staff and may compromise student experience is a major step forward.”
For more information on our work, see zerohoursjustice.org
The full Russell Group announcement can be read at https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/russell-group-publishes-joint-statement-on-working-practices/
Notes to editors:
Zero Hours Justice is a campaign led by a coalition of concerned citizens working together, with representatives from the TUC and responsible employers, with the aim of ending zero hours contracts when imposed unilaterally against a worker’s will.
The aims of Zero Hours Justice are
Zero House Justice Press contact:
Pravin Jeyaraj firstname.lastname@example.org
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By Pravin Jeyaraj and James Johnson-Flint
CORONAVIRUS AND ZERO HOURS CONTRACTS – A DANGEROUS COMBINATION
The sudden sweeping of the globe by the coronavirus highlights just how vulnerable workers on zero hours contracts are – and the potential danger for others.
According to data provided by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the groups at highest risk to the impact of the coronavirus are the elderly, those with health conditions and those working in healthcare.
Coronavirus infections in the UK still appear to be primarily linked to contact with people who have travelled here from particular areas elsewhere in the world where there have been infections. However, this connection may be becoming more tenuous based on recent cases.
So, if the spread of coronavirus becomes more widespread in the UK, it is health and social care workers who are most likely to come into contact with the virus.
ZERO HOURS CONTRACT WORKERS WILL BE DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the health and social care sector has the second highest proportion of zero hours contract workers, second only to the workers in the food and accommodation sector, another sector that comes into face to face contact with significant numbers of people and potential Covid-19 carriers.
NHS advice for anyone who comes into contact with the coronavirus is that you should self-isolate for 14 days, if advised by NHS 111. But if you are on a zero hours contract, the concern is that self-isolation means you are not available to take up work that is offered and so you will not be paid.
"How many people actually can't take a day off sick?" asked broadcaster James O'Brien on his show on LBC. It is "a really big deal" that some people on zero hours contracts can simply not afford to take time off work if they contract an illness. O'Brien added that the fear for many is that "if you don't drag your carcass to work you don't get paid". Wondering how many would survive in the event of a pandemic, James argued "If you take two days off sick, you don't get shifts for the rest of the week", raising concerns about just how that would impact those on zero hour contracts and in less secure work.
ZERO HOURS CONTRACT WORKERS AND STATUTORY SICK PAY
“We have already heard that some employers are already trying to take advantage of the crisis by not paying sick pay to casual staff,” says Pravin Jeyaraj, Communications Officer at Zero Hours Justice. Has this happened to you? Let us know at zerohoursjustice.org and we’ll try and help.
Zero Hours Justice believes that catching the coronavirus (or another illness) should not be an excuse for employers to refuse to pay statutory sick pay. If you are a zero hours contract worker, at the moment you may in principle be eligible to receive £94.25 a week statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks, as long as:
However, it is by no means clear that if you are a zero hours contract worker and choose to self-isolate without showing symptoms you will have a contractual right to receive sick pay. This will depend on how the right to sick pay is defined in your contract of employment. Under many contracts of employment, a zero hours worker or an employee has no contractual right to sick pay unless they are "incapable of work". Statutory sick pay is also payable only in respect of a period when you are incapable of working.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 contain a declaration by the Secretary of State that the incidence or transmission of novel Coronavirus is a serious and imminent threat to public health, and the measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus.
Therefore, assuming that someone who self isolates does so because they are given a written notice, typically issued by a GP or by NHS 111, then they are deemed to be incapable of working, as defined in the Regulations. They would therefore be entitled to statutory sick pay. But if somebody chooses to self-isolate, and/or is not given that written notice, then they are not entitled to statutory sick pay.
The required earning threshold for statutory sick pay also means that those who are in insecure forms of work, such as zero hours contract workers, are more likely to miss out on statutory sick pay because are likely to earn less. This is because their irregular hours may not result in them earning enough to meet the income threshold. Therefore, there is a danger that zero hours contract workers may force themselves in to work even if they are unwell and put fellow workers, patients or customers' health at risk.
Analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that around a third (34%) of those on zero hours contracts do not meet the earnings threshold, compared to 6% of permanent employees. Statutory sick pay eligibility also varies significantly by age, with over one in five being ineligible for statutory sick pay due to not earning the required amount. Older employees, aged 65 and over, are also less likely to be eligible for SSP, with one in four not earning enough to be eligible. This mirrors the trend the TUC has observed in zero hours contracts, where these two age groups are the most likely to be employed on a zero hours contract.
The Government's plan to introduce emergency legislation to make statutory sick pay payable from day one of being off sick is a welcome move, even if it is expected to be temporary. But it is not enough. The TUC believes that the Government should abolish the lower earnings limit (and any earnings threshold) for receiving Statutory Sick Pay, which would extend coverage to almost two million workers, including zero hours contract workers. Zero Hours Justice agrees and urges the Government to implement this recommendation in the forthcoming emergency legislation to deal with the Coronavirus.
Are you on a zero hours contract and have already been affected by the Coronavirus? Let us know.
The information provided is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and should not be taken as formal legal advice. Each individual's case will differ.
are you a hotel worker on a zero hours contracts? ITN WANTS YOUr HELP for a television investigation
Do you work in one of Britain’s hotel chains?
ITN is doing confidential research to find out about your experiences of working in hotels. The producers would like to speak to housekeepers, cleaners, porters, kitchen staff and others about the pros and cons of hotel work.
Issues we are looking at include pay, working conditions, workloads, unpaid time, and feedback from employees on whether they feel they get a fair deal from their employers.
The informal telephone conversations with a researcher from ITN Productions will be strictly confidential, for the purposes of research only, and will not be recorded. No information will be shared with your employer.
If you would be happy to help with this research, please email Stephen Walsh at ITN Productions directly at email@example.com or text him on 07711 021050 to arrange a call.
If English isn’t your first language, we can arrange for a translator.
Thank you in anticipation for your help with this project.
By Pravin Jeyaraj and James Johnson-Flint
According to the latest figures from Office for National Statistics, the number of people employed on zero hours contracts has risen to an all-time high of 974,000 – almost 1 million – in Quarter 4 2019.
This is a shocking increase of 130,000 from Quarter 4 2018 - over 15% higher in just one year and now equivalent to 3% of all people in employment.
Whilst the use of zero hours contracts has spread to all parts of society, there are particular groups which are more significantly affected, especially the lowest paid and most vulnerable who have little or no choice but to take the work offered.
The data also shows a correlation between zero hours contracts and part time employment. Of those employed on zero hours contracts, 67% are part-time workers. The reduced hours – and hence pay – that comes with part time work are compounded by the uncertainty of available work that all so often comes with zero hours contracts.
Indeed, over 25% of all people on zero hours contracts say they want more hours, quite the opposite of (and some 3 times more than) those not on zero hours contracts.
The pain endured by those on a zero hours contract unilaterally is also evident by the fact that average weekly hours for those on zero hours contracts has fallen to 23.6 hours, compared to 36.3 hours for everyone in employment.
Ian Hodson, President of Zero Hours Justice, commented: “These latest statistics show just how badly zero hours contracts affect pay and society. Those on zero hours contracts are amongst the most vulnerable in our land. Many of them feel powerless to complain, even if they suffer serious problems at work like bullying and sexual harassment. The response from managers can be threats to cut their hours of work. But they simply can’t afford to lose any pay, so what can they do? Lots of landlords won’t take you if you are on a zero hours contract. And of course, you can’t get a mortgage. So, we have members who have been forced to live in places that are unfit for habitation and dangerous to their health. Nobody should have to live like that in 21st Century Britain. Every job should give people the basic security they need to live a decent life.”
Over 40% of those employed on zero hours contracts are in the health and social care, accommodation and food sectors, with 31% employed in elementary occupations, 20% employed in care, leisure and service occupations .and 11.3% employed in professional occupations.
About Zero Hours Justice
Zero Hours Justice is a campaign led by a coalition of concerned citizens working together, with representatives from the TUC and responsible employers. The campaign was founded and funded by Julian Richer, entrepreneur, author of "The Ethical Capitalist" and avid campaigner for responsible capitalism. It is also supported by employment law specialists, Thompsons Solicitors.
The aims of Zero Hours Justice are
Julian Richer commented: “This is an apolitical campaign for those who want a better society. We want our campaign to be a coming together of interested parties to end the awful practice of zero hours contracts. As an employer, I care passionately about my colleagues. I can’t imagine anything more likely to cause misery than not knowing day-to-day whether they will have enough money for food or rent. Maybe such contracts can work for a small minority of workers who have other significant household incomes or for students with wealthy parents, but for the vast majority this evil way of exploiting people at work must be banned – as indeed they are in the great majority of European countries. If we can’t give working people basic security, we should be ashamed.”
James Bloodworth, Author of “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain”, commented: "I worked in several zero hours contract jobs as part of the research for my book and it was striking to me the level of insecurity zero hours contracts created among workers who were already having to cope with low-pay and brutal employment conditions. Not knowing from week to week how many hours you would be given by your employer added another layer of precarity to jobs that were already in many instances done by people who were struggling financially.
“Furthermore, Government policy when it comes to the benefits system has made life harder for those on zero hours contracts. Should a worker leave a job of their own volition, they are not entitled to claim jobseekers’ allowance. This leaves many workers trapped in jobs in which they are not being given enough hours each week to make ends meet. This in turn is generating a big increase in in-work poverty and food bank use. Employed on a zero hours contract, a worker may be working as little as five hours a week – yet still he or she may be unable to get another job or leave and claim jobseekers’ allowance while they look for something full time. It's nothing but cruel and I lend my support to Zero Hours Justice to help in any way I can."
Julian Richer has received support from opposition Members of Parliament for his campaign to end unilaterally-imposed zero hours contracts.
An Early Day Motion commending Richer for launching Zero Hours Justice was passed with support of 20 MPs, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
In particular, the motion backs the Zero Hours Justice campaign for
The full wording of the Early Day Motion and a list of its sponsors and supporters is available on the Parliament website.