Unemployed to lose benefits if they refuse zero-hour contracts
The government has announced that jobseekers risk losing their benefits if they refuse to take up zero-hour contracts.
The minister for employment, Esther McVey, wrote to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore to set out the terms of the change.
Under the new universal credit system payments will adjust automatically depending on the hours a person works. In case workers did not meet the hours needed, their universal credit payments would adjust, to ensure they were still maintained.
Zero-hour contracts will allow employers to hire staff on a flexible basis and there is no guarantee of fixed-term work.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics found 583,000 people were on zero-hour contracts, around 2% of the UK workforce.
Critics say such contracts do not allow financial or job stability and that such workers are not offered the same rights as those in full-time positions. Before there was no obligation for those seeking permanent paid work to accept zero-hour contracts.
Government claims that such contracts will offer an average of 25 hours per week and would allow jobseekers to continue searching for full-time employment.
Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, commented: “While I don’t object to the principle of either universal credit or zero-hour contracts, I am concerned about this policy change. I also fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hour contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term.”