No work, no pay, but still employed? Welcome to Britain’s ‘zero-hours contracts’, which offer no guaranteed amount of work and pay, and some weeks provide nothing.
Almost unheard of in the rest of Europe and the United States, the rapid growth of this type of work helps explain how Britain’s barely growing economy has nonetheless been able to provide jobs for a record number of people.
One in five jobs created in Britain since late 2008 has come with a zero-hours contract, many of them in low-paid roles such as caring for the elderly or stacking shelves, but increasingly in work that requires more qualifications.
Under a zero-hours contract, an employer has no obligation to provide a minimum number of shifts, unlike other jobs.
Workers are not obliged to accept hours either. But critics argue that the flexibility mostly benefits employers because workers who reject being called up on one occasion risk being frozen out of all future work.