Pravin Jeyaraj, Communications Officer for Zero Hours Justice, said: “Whilst we accept that that there is no contractual obligation to pay casual workers for work not done, it is not unreasonable to expect employers to be flexible in the current, unusual circumstances. Despite the nature of their working arrangements, many of the casual workers have have loyally undertaken work for Broxbourne Council for many years. They could reasonably expect that, had it not been for the pandemic and lockdown, there would have been work for them to do.”
Broxbourne Council has a cohort of 458 casual workers. One of those affected by the decision not to pay for cancelled shifts during lockdown, Dawn Etheridge, said: “I was very disappointed with the council's decision. It is an affluent borough that has admitted it did not need to use the furlough scheme as it had enough money. Despite this, it could not see fit to support some of its lowest-paid workers, even for those shifts they already had booked before the pandemic started. My family have over 28 years of service for the borough between us. I know we have only been casual workers but that's not because we didn't want to be permanent workers - it was something that was never offered to us. To lose a large portion of your salary overnight caused real financial hardship to me. I have worked for Broxbourne Council regularly for eight year, an average of 10 hours a week. 10 hours a week on minimum wage may not seem a lot to some but if you are on a low income bringing up a family on your own it makes a huge difference. My son also worked for Broxbourne Council as a casual worker so to lose two salaries from one family was very hard. Luckily my son is younger and was able to find some work during the pandemic to help out. I am now nearly 60, so was cautious about going out to find work during a global pandemic.”
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”.
For more information and to share your story or offer help or support, see www.zerohoursjustice.org
Pravin Jeyaraj, Communications Officer, email@example.com.
Images can be downloaded from here. Image of Julian Richer should be credited to Gerardo Jaconelli.