Date of release: Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Research by the university's Work and Employment Research Unit (WERU) forms part of a report by the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that recommends the rates of the National Minimum Wages, including the National Living Wage, to government.

WERU's extensive research looked at the relationship between the National Living Wage and non-standard employment arrangements, specifically zero hours contracts (ZHCs), Minimum Hours contracts (MHCs) and dependent self-employment.

Sian Moore, Professor of Employment Relations and Human Resource Management at Greenwich, says: "Our interviews with workers on non-standard contractual arrangements question suggestions in the government's Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices that flexible work reflects workers' individual lifestyles and preferences. 

"Our research illustrates the increased power that these contractual arrangements give to employers. Workers experience unpredictability in their working hours, with pay varying from week to week, and some are struggling to survive financially."

Professor Moore and fellow researchers carried out a study, using in-depth interviews, to highlight the experiences of 36 workers from six low-paying industries. The study revealed that contracted hours could bear little relationship to actual hours worked; some workers wanted more hours, and others did not want to take on the extra hours that they could be called upon to work at short notice.

There were examples of shifts arranged only days in advance and changed at short notice, but also of 'on-demand working' where workers can be sent home if there is insufficient work.

Workers on MHCs and ZHCs felt that they were required to be available to the employer and were continually on-call. They expressed fears about rejecting work and then being 'starved' of hours.

The use of non-standard contracts can allow employers to redefine elements of the working day as 'non-productive' time and thus be unpaid. In some sectors, hours are paid at a flat rate with no premia for evening or weekend work or time worked over and above contractual hours. In other sectors, premia are vulnerable to reduction or abolition. There was also evidence of employers using shifts of under six hours, ensuring that workers would not be entitled to breaks.

There was often confusion about sick pay and holiday entitlement and a shared reluctance to go sick, because of loss of pay and fear of employer responses. Episodic working time was not conducive to training or career progression, and there were few incentives to take on supervisory or managerial positions. Overall, among the workers interviewed, there was a desire for permanence and more predictable hours.

For more information on the Work and Employment Research Unit (WERU), part of the university's Business School: http://www.gre.ac.uk/business/research/centres/weru

@WERU_Greenwich

Story by Public Relations.