Empowering the Freelance Economy

Agency contractors: are your working patterns or shifts ruining your health?

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Close to two-fifths (37%) of UK workers in full or part-time employment are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts or work patterns, according to new research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation. 

The study found that among the 59% of workers whose job involves variable hours or shift work, over three-fifths (62%) reported having less than a week’s notice of their work schedules. At the extreme, 12% of this group – amounting to 7% all working adults – had less than 24 hours’ notice.  

The research-based on two surveys, of over 2,000 UK adults in each case – addresses a gap in the UK’s labour market data and understanding of hours insecurity, being the first recent study to assess notice periods for work schedules across the workforce.

While short notice periods affect workers throughout the UK, they are particularly common in London, where almost half (48%) of all workers received less than a week’s notice of work schedules. 

Scotland (35%), the South of England excluding London (34%), and the North of England (33%)  are areas where short notice periods were less common.  

Full-time and low-paid?

A second survey conducted by the Living Wage Foundation said that they had homed in on the experience of full-time, low-paid workers. The findings revealed that they were particularly hard hit by the short notice of working hours.

Of those working full time and paid below the real Living Wage of £10.85 in London and £9.50 in the rest of the UK, more than half (55%) had less than a week’s notice of work schedules, with 15% having less than 24 hours’ notice. 

Low-paid, full-time workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds[3] (68% of whom had less than a week’s notice of work patterns) and those with children (64%) were also disproportionately affected. 

What are some employers doing to ease shift insecurity?

Some employers are stepping up to commit to stronger standards on shift patterns to better support workers and families, according to Living Wage Foundation. This includes Scottish energy provider SSE, which has announced that it has become an accredited Living Hours Employer, joining, amongst others, Aviva and Standard Life Aberdeen as employers committing to provide workers with secure, guaranteed working hours.  

The Living Hours programme requires employers to both pay a real Living Wage and commit to providing at least 4 weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period. Living Hours employers also provide a guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise), and a contract that accurately reflects hours worked. 

The Foundation’s research shows that currently just 10% of workers who have variable working hours or conduct shift work received at least four weeks’ notice of shift patterns.  

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