Zero Hours Contracts Fall in Scotland – But Shocking in Orkney

Scotland has a lower proportion of workers on zero-hours contracts than the UK.  As the number of zero hours contracts in Scotland dropped by 2,000, across the UK it has risen by 101,000 in the past 12 months.

In Orkney figures obtained by The Orkney News in March using a Freedom of Information request showed that 1009 people were employed by the council on zero hours contracts. OIC has a workforce of 1800.

There is no single agreed definition of what “zero-hours contracts” are. While some contracts are explicitly called zero-hours contracts, there are other definitions available and used in published statistics. The common element to the definitions is the lack of a guaranteed minimum number of hours. They have been closely linked with low pay,in work poverty and inequality.

Figures obtained from Orkney Islands Council using a Freedom of Information request show:

  • Employees on permanent full time contracts                       807
  • Employees on permanent part-time contracts                     944
  • Employees on temporary full time contracts                         100
  • Employees on temporary part-time contracts                       162
  • Employees on zero hour contracts                                           1009
  • Employees on zero hours contracts since 06/04/2016          330

Some people have more than one employment contract. Orkney Islands Council is a Living Wage employer,however, as can be seen from the figures an hourly Living Wage rate is not the same as having a weekly wage that you can rely on to cover your living costs.

The varying hours and pay which zero hours workers experience makes it difficult to budget and manage household costs. Some weeks they can have no hours of employment and therefore no pay. This can lead to rent arrears and workers seeking high interest credit in order to meet their living costs

Citizens Advice Scotland has seen a huge rise in people coming to them  who are struggling to get by on a daily basis – these people are in work, many of them are in part time work and/or zero hours contracts.

Women and the young make up the largest number of people on zero hours contracts. A report produced for Highlands and Islands Enterprise has shown that in Orkney women are in lower grade and lower paid jobs. The under-employment of women is also a serious concern with Orkney having more women having to care for young and elderly family members than happens nationally. This is also why women are more likely to be in part-time employment. All of these factors have significant implications for addressing the gender pay gap in Orkney and wider inequality issues.

In a report for The House of Commons it is stated:

“Balance of power in the employment relationship: Our review found that people perceived they would be penalised if they did not take hours offered even if the hours were offered at very short notice and did not suit. This meant it could lead to a climate of fear that a person is less likely to be offered regular work in future if they failed to accept the hours on offer” (HoC Briefing Paper,Zero-Hours Contracts, No 06553, 03/10/2016)

The Resolution Foundation and the Work Foundation both report that those employed on zero hours contracts tend to receive lower gross weekly pay and that workplaces that utilise the contracts tend to have a higher proportion of staff on low pay.

The Scottish Greens stated in their 2017 General Election manifesto:

“We will end the scandal of working poverty, by abolishing exploitative zero hours contracts, upholding employment and trade union rights, closing the gender pay gap, and ensuring that everyone is paid a living wage. With these protections for incomes we will phase in a 35-hour working week to shift our economy away from excessive working hours.”

And Scottish Labour pledged “to ban zero hours exploitative contracts”

The SNP also back a ban on exploitative zero hours contracts but state that the power remains reserved and the UK government has yet to show any willingness to take the action required to deliver job security and fair conditions for all.

With three political parties in Scotland : The SNP, The Scottish Greens and Labour all in favour of a  ban on zero hours contracts surely they can act together to end this practice. 

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

The Orkney News has several articles on zero hours contracts and low pay – you can find them using our search facility

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