Universal Credit And Zero Hours Contracts – A Car Crash Waiting To Happen

zero-hour-contracts-bwImportant new information has emerged via an FOI response which states that unemployed benefit claimants should not be sanctioned for not applying for or not taking up a job on a zero hours contract.

This suggests that someone at the DWP has spotted a looming problem for Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms which could see up to a million jobs on zero-hours contracts unavailable for benefit claimants because of stringent new rules on benefit conditionality.

Zero-hours contracts are a fast growing phenomena which are used by grasping employers to strip away workplace rights and demolish job security.  Instead of regular hours for regular pay, companies force employees to sign a contract which simply states they will be available for work, but offers no guarantee of any work actually being available.

On many contracts workers are obliged to take any shifts offered, often on short notice, meaning it is not possible to commit to a second job, study or any other form of activity in case you are called in to work.  It is not just the private sector who have embraced these exploitative arrangements, many public and voluntary sector jobs now come with these kinds of contracts.

This presents a huge problem for Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms and the newly introduced Claimant Commitments.  These commitments involve a massively extended system of conditionality for claiming benefits.  Claimants on the unemployment benefit Jobseekers Allowance will now be expected to show that they are spending 35 hours a week on ‘work related activity’ which means anything from applying for jobs to attending training sessions or even workfare.  Single parents with children over 5 are now also being dragged into this regime and forced to endlessly look for work whilst their kids are at school.  Once their children are 13 they will be expected to work full time, and travel up to 90 minutes each way to work and back leaving teenage children abandoned from dawn til dusk.

When Universal Credit is finally introduced, part time workers will also have to show that they are looking for ‘more or better paid’ work to be able to maintain in-work benefits such as the Housing Element of the new benefit (which will replace Housing Benefits).

Millions of people are set to be affected.  And not one of them will be able to sign a zero hours contracts without potentially losing their in-work benefits.  Under the new rules, someone working 16 hours a week, can now be sent on Mandatory Work Activity (workfare) by the Jobcentre for the remaining 19 hours a week.  If they refuse they can have benefits sanctioned, possibly for up to three years.  If they attend this workfare, then they are likely to be in breach of their zero-hours contract.

This is likely to be one reason why according to the latest information from the DWP, claimants cannot be forced to take a job on a zero-hours contract.  The DWP would rather have you on workfare, or sat at an A4e or G4S training centre then sitting at home waiting on your employer to offer you a shift.

But the DWP haven’t made the problem go away.  Many major companies, including McDonals, JD Wetherspoon and Sport Direct now have most of their workforce on zero-hours contracts.  And many of these low paid and often part time workers are exactly the kind of people who will need to claim Universal Credit if only to pay the some portion of their rent.  And they won’t be able to.  Unless they give up work.

So whilst with one hand the DWP is doing everything they can to bully claimants into low paid, part time and insecure work, with the other it is actively preventing them from taking up that kind of work with some of the UK’s largest employers.  And all because of welfare reforms scribbled down on the back of an envelope by Ministers who are completely out of touch with the realities of the workplace for those at the bottom of the income scale.

Not everyone is taking zero-hours contracts lying down.  The Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union – who have strong anti-workfare policies – are currently taking industrial action at Hovis after agency workers on zero-hour contracts were brought in to replace workers previously made redundant.  Show solidarity by helping spread the word and following them on twitter @IanBFAWU

Above pic via Boycott Workfare’s facebook page.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

54 responses to “Universal Credit And Zero Hours Contracts – A Car Crash Waiting To Happen

  1. the only way to stop this shit is for everyone on benefits to stand as one for the same cause and actively show our anger. it might take a while, but this government will have to give in sometime. too many people in this country are just armchair experts that never stand up for themselves because of this stupid “stiff upper lip” thing and “not wanting to cause a fuss”.

  2. back to the Victorian era

    You couldn’t make it up if you tried – and these swines have the responsibility of running the Govt!

  3. all this will mean is people wont want to do part time jobs.

  4. Fuckin twat government is trying to crush people who’re struggling. everythin they do is to hinder not to help peolpe. Only diff with our fuckin govt and Syria is they kill the people openly, ours do it covertly by makin peoples lives hell on earth with sanctions and benefits reforms and taxing to death. Cameron acting like he gives a shit about people. We people need to be saved forget Syrian people.

  5. employers wont be able to get part time workers because everybody will be chasing full time work.

  6. overburdenddonkey

    their policies are like gas lamp filaments, put any pressure on them once tested, they crumble into dust

  7. i just cannot get my head around this one . This government has rushed so much through they don,t even know what their doing and the worker,s on zero hours are the one,s who will suffer through the incompetance of these idiot.s

  8. alf roberts fuckin cameron is a fat dickhead stupid cunt no idea what he’s doin – useless bastards 2015 soon bye bye

  9. I need a new language to express my outrage and utter distain for this illegal government.

  10. The problem is, none of the dickheads in government have ever had to work and live in the real world at (or near) the bottom of society. They really are clueless.

    Another thing: how will unemployed people be able to afford to look for work 35 hours a week? Internet, phone calls, travel for interviews, letters, postage … It doesn’t add up.

    None of this fucking shit makes sense. IDS is brain dead.

  11. When I signed on last Thursday, I asked about “0 hrs”contract jobs, and was told then that I should NOT apply for such jobs, and a note was made on my file confirming this.

    • overburdenddonkey

      imho, given the intrinsic uncertainties in o hr contracts…the dwp cannot impose any sanctions nor conditionalities, on anyone on a o hr contracts and must also therefore pay in work benefits…

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  13. some of these zero hours contracts are not immediately apparent.a while back there was a vacancy for a special events organiser at Aylesbury station.it rang bells at the time asking how many events are there?.
    it later became apparent this was under zero hours contract.

    • Ken, is a special event at Aylesbury station when a train actually rolls up on time?…I can see that would really take some organising!!

  14. Zero hours contracts should be abolished,and made illegal,as they are no use to man nor beast,and do nothing to help the economy.

    • Employers benefit hugely, as they only have to pay people when they actually need them. It’s all part of the flexible workforce thing. However, zero hour contracts are certainly no good to the worker unless they are additional to other work, and the worker has the option of refusing the shift due to other commitments. However, too many of these zero hour scum employers want workers to be at their beck and call, effectively owning the worker, but not having to support them properly. In this way the worker is actually less than a slave, as at least the slave owner had to ensure food and shelter for their slaves.

      • Precisely. I was offered one once and declined because I don’t want to be at their beck and call 24/7 – I have a life!. If nobody accepted they wouldn’t exist.

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  17. zero hours wont be good for anything, trying to get credit to buy something for example you have to prove that you have full time permanent employment don’t you or guaranteed hours? same for if you are wanting to rent or buy flat or house? and saying eventually part time people will have to be shown to be trying to get better paid work or full time work is ridiculous, M y health conditions that i have i have enough trouble walking about as it is for longer lengths of time, i manage part time then i’m in so much pain or spasms i have to go lay down, so how are other disabled or people suffering from chronic conditions going to be affected? your right zero hours will not help us, more employers will bully their staff, people are fighting over finding work as it is and those in part time who do struggle will just give up work completely rather than being messed about.
    next thing will be ankle bracelets to monitor your time in bed and out of it looking for better paid work-which after all is relative to which town or city you are in.
    by the way as far as job center goes, i know someone who was in hospital intensive care and was still being told to attend job center and find work from his hospital bed.
    any way enough ranting for today night all

  18. Time for the revolution tto start hat everybody has been talking about,its the only thing this Government will understand Cameron and co could not give 2 flying fu**s about you me or anybody else.Only interests they have is seeing how much the can get out of the trough and pocket for themselves.I have never known so many oxygen thieves to be housed in 1 place until i visited the Houses of Parliament.

  19. NoJobsCentreMinus

    “Claimants on the unemployment benefit Jobseekers Allowance will now be expected to show that they are spending 35 hours a week on ‘work related activity’ which means anything from applying for jobs to attending training sessions or even workfare”

    Aren’t people on workfare already doing these things? (Workfare + Jobsearch) so it’s just to make it look like they’re doing something unless they intend to introduce spying technology on the unemployed as it’s highly doubtful, Stalinist and unimplementable.

  20. NoJobsCentreMinus

    So the only solution to permanently getting off benefits would be two jobs

    This crappy system won’t make it and will probably end in a legal battle as part-time workers do not equal push overs

    Too bad the government thinks it does.

    • I think that will be the crucial thing. At the moment the huge numbers of part-time workers who are claiming benefits, (and many claim housing benefit, and since April the threshold for claiming Tax Credits was reduced to 16 hours, so there will be some part-time workers claiming this too) are probably not taking too much of an interest in what is happening, even if they are aware that they will fall into the Universal Credit net. Once reality bites, and they find that they too are affected by ludicrous conditionality requirements opposition to the government will probably increase.

      Many are wondering, as I am, why the ordinary people of the UK haven’t reacted to the swingeing legislation being imposed, but over the past 30+ years there has been an increasing acceptance that being selfish is not only OK, but is actually a desirable quality. Thatcher realised that she could only bring in the changes she wanted over a long period of time, and needed to destroy the labour movement before any real progress could be made in creating a society based on individualism. These cretins in government of course haven’t got even a fraction of the with Thatcher had, and treat the people with contempt. As a result they are putting in place a system that can result only in one thing: throwing people back on themselves. It could all turn very nasty if the extreme-right politics makes any headway, (and they most certainly will try). The same applies to the extreme-left, as they don’t seem to be any more savoury than the extreme-right, (the extreme-right will have their concentration camps, whilst the extreme-left will have their ‘rededucation camps’ – same difference really)

      Hopefully people will begin to see that we are sorely in need of something very different, based along horizontal lines, that promotes equality, human dignity and insists that we all have basic needs that require satisfying as a right. There is more than enough money to achieve this, and to have plenty of change left over. It isn’t about that even, nor is it ‘producttive’ work, as automation is removing the need for people in vast areas of manufactuirng, (which in turn creates a bit of a problem for the fat cat rich: if no-on has any money, because they don’t have a job, then who exactly is going to buy their products, thus keeping them wealthy?). These changes are happening, and this is what benefits with conditionality and 35 hours a week jobsearch is about. Our ‘leaders’ are worried that if they don’t insist on the poor being kept busy doing pointless tasks that our collective minds will turn to other matters, such as getting rid of the rich leeches that make up the boss class and their friends the politicians. I think it’s a bit late for that, and I think that once it really hits home that these idiots in government are serious about their plans, serious opposition won’t be long in following, but this will come from the people, as it is bit unrealistic to expect it to come from any of the present political parties.

      • overburdenddonkey

        brown envelopes, admin, sanctions and conditionality grind us to dust…responding to UC will be a full time job…it will herald a new era of state control over the energy of human beings…unemployment is at 5m+ and rising, UC will make this worse…

        • All the more important to resist it. It will invevitably be the cause of it’s own downfall, as if it is in any way as effective as it’s architects hope, there will be thousands of people with literally nothing to lose. The state is far from all-powerful, (and that’s not to underestimate it’s power) and is only held in place by the consent of the mass of the people. Once that consent is withdrawn, the regime, and it’s attendant state no longer have any legitimacy. It’s almost impossible for a state without legitimacy to have any kind of long term power unless it is propped up by powerful external allies.

          I’m well aware that the state is poweful, more powerful than me as an individual. It may grind me to dust, but I shall not willingly or despairingly submit to that.

          The very fact that there are 5m+ unemployed and that this figure could well be rising is an indication that there will be a lot of people who are severly disillusioned.

          If people power brought the Honnecker regime and the Berlin Wall down in East Germany I’m damn sure that people can bring this regime here in the UK down too.

  21. The race to the bottom is entering the final lap, not long now before there is utter chaos and possibly civil unrest, why do you think Theresa May is so keen on purchasing 3 shiny new water cannon, or Philip Hammond is bringing home 17,000 troops that he said in 2012: “Could be used for crowd control.” Why do you think new legislation effectively makes gathering in groups (2 or more people) a potentially arrestable offence should you refuse to ‘disperse’ when ordered too?

    This unelected and unrepresentative coalition know exactly what they are doing and what the outcome will most likely be, but instead of doing all they can to avoid that outcome they are quietly arranging their protection from the soon to be outraged masses.

    I imagine the crunch will come when they ask those 17,000 troops to open fire on unarmed British civilians….. Don’t think for a second that they wouldn’t give that order, remember they are no longer counting the dead.

  22. “Workfare is already here. Nobody told the Taxpayers’ Alliance”.


  23. There is another thing that doesn’t seem to have been considered. I used to work with people with mental health problems, and part of my job was looking at how people could be helped back to work. The majority of people that had the potential to work would only have been capable of working part-time. This will also be true for many people with other disabilities and many older workers too. So firstly, how do you make part-time workers search for more hours when they are already working to their full capacity? Secondly, how do you make people ‘job-search’ for 35 hours when they are only capable of working part-time?

  24. I wouldn’t mind going to college p/t to re-skill but they won’t let me. They’d rather I endlessy tweaked my CV and talked ad infinitum about interview skills and what I’d done to apply for jobs with them (the JC) and the WP adviser, who has no real knowledge or life experience.

  25. Just finished my work programme in Exeter with Working Links, a complete waste of time. * Be careful what you say in any e-mail to your consultant * They cut & paste any negative comments, and put these into your final exit report.
    This goes to the jobcentre ready for your post-work programme interview.
    A final piece of petty spite from them.

    • Ian Lawson
      Can you elaborate? What difference will their final report make?
      Also do they have any right to our CV, either electronic or paper? They seem to want a lot of personal information that I don’t believe they have a need or right to. I have just started the WP last month.
      Any tips welcome.

      • Hi JD, Basically they collect any negative comments you make if they offer some part-time cleaning job 10 miles away etc. All the e-mails you have sent to your consultant over the 2 years are trawled through for negative comments. They store every one, this comes as a terrible suprise to some people. With less than 1 in 10 getting jobs, they try to defend their own failures by presenting clients who have not gained a job as ‘ difficult’.
        They cut & paste these comments, often out of context, and put them into the report.
        How much this is done depends on your consultant. Some are okay, others fully paid-up members of the awkward squad.
        So every time you have said ‘I don’t want to because…’, or ‘ I don’t think this is suitable etc.’ goes into the report. So I would advise be very careful about what you share with your consultant. Some of them try to pretend that we are ‘all in this together mate so lets make the best of it’. Where have I heard that before ? If you want to turn something down, try not to put it into writing, wait until you see them. Always be careful what you put, you are writing your own exit report. You have to share with them the personal info on your cv, and that is about all. You do not have to allow them access to your UJ account.
        Hope this helps.

        • Ian
          Thanks for that and yes it helps a lot.
          Frankly I was quite concerned to see the adviser frantically tapping away the details of the conversation that we’d just had that I considered just an informal chat. As you say, the advisor gives the impression they are a a friend but I detect strongly insincerity in them. Based on what you say, I am even more sure that is the case – they are all of the same breed. I am going there unwillingly and don’t wish to cooperate with them – any more than I have to at least and I’ll certainly give the bare minimum of information and be on guard with everything I say from now on based on your advice.
          Thanks again.
          JD .

        • I would add regarding their “report” that it has no value. I am certainly not worried about their report.

  26. toploading b'stard

    Time to create some ‘Lawyers needed’ adverts on ad posting websites.

  27. toploading b'stard

    Just got an idea

    if you’re on claimants commitment and your MP refuses to help you with any kind of action/advice how about naming your MP (especially if they’re tory) and shaming them on twitter, facebook and other social media (as well as pastebin)

  28. If zero hours contracts are so f***ing brilliant then why isn’t the director general of the CBI doing it?


    • He might but then of course he’ll be on about a grand an hour or something stupid like that not £6.19.. Totally agree though these people are warped in their outlook. Unbelievably selfish or absolutely no concept of reality and struggling. I suspect a combination of the two.

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