By Pravin Jeyaraj
This year more than ever before, business and the public have shown a widespread appreciation for keyworkers on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19. This has been most evident of all through the weekly public clapping events, thank you posters and special offers.
Yet, this appreciation sadly does not appear to have been reflected in any improvement in the precarious working conditions of many key workers. Instead, shockingly, it appears to have worsened.
According to the latest employment data from the Office for National Statistics, the number of people on zero hours contracts during the lockdown period April to June 2020 smashed the one million barrier. In just one year, we have seen an enormous 17% increase, from 896,000 in April to June 2019 to 1,052,000 this year.
Source: Office for National Statistics
This dramatic increase in the use of zero hours contracts by employers is powered in large part by industry sectors most likely to employ key workers, punishing precisely those who have kept the country going in its time of need.
As food retailers, takeaways and online delivery kept society and the economy going, the wholesale and retail sector and accommodation and food sector saw a combined rise of 53% in the number of zero hours contracts, from 297,000 in April to June 2019 to 311,000 this year. This is also an increase of 42% from December 2019,
At the same time, as doctors, nurses and other health and social care workers were putting themselves at risk in battling Covid-19 and looking after the vulnerable, the health and social care sector saw the number of zero hours contracts go up by 35%, from 153,000 in April to June 2019 to 198,000 this year.
The education and transport sectors have also seen large increases, of 21% and 19% respectively, in the number of zero hours contract workers, compared to last year.
In terms of particular occupations, the largest increase in zero hours contracts has been seen by skilled trade occupations (46%), process, plant and machine operatives (28%) and sales and customer services occupations (16%) and caring, leisure and other service occupations (10%).
Help us campaign against this shocking trend towards precarious employment, by telling us your story. Zero Hours Justice is actively working to lobby businesses, public sector organisations and others to stop the inappropriate use of zero hours contracts and make employers, government and the public aware how much harm they cause to so many, in today’s society.