Half of UK low-paid workers given less than a week’s notice of shifts – The Guardian

Campaigners say workers face ‘insecurity premium’ due to added costs of childcare and travel when shifts are changed at short notice
Half of low-paid workers in the UK are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, according to a study highlighting an “insecurity premium” for employees paid close to the minimum wage.
The Living Wage Foundation said 50% of people earning less than £9.90 an hour around the UK or £11.05 in London were told details of their work schedules with less than seven days before they were due to begin.
In research highlighting the pressure on low-paid staff, the study from a poll of 2,000 adults found cleaners, couriers and some NHS staff were more likely to be affected by insecurity. In contrast, about 32% of all UK workers in full or part-time jobs are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts.
The campaign group said lower-paid workers were therefore more likely to pay a financial price – an “insecurity premium” – because of the added costs of childcare and travel when shifts were cancelled or changed at short notice.
Almost half of shift workers lose out on £30 or more a month because of last-minute changes, according to the study, leading almost a third to increase their reliance on credit cards and borrowing to make ends meet.
“We’ve long known that it costs to be poor, but this research shows it’s even more costly to be both poor and in insecure work,” said Katherine Chapman, the director of the Living Wage Foundation.
“In an unfolding cost-of-living crisis with energy bills set to rise even further, low-income households are facing ‘heat or eat’ decisions.”
A separate study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank showed a growing proportion of Britain’s lowest earners are missing out on stronger earnings growth for employees on the minimum wage in recent decades.
It found pay growth for the lowest-paid tenth of workers in the country had been twice as fast as for a worker on average pay between 2011 an 2019, helped by inflation-beating increases in the “national living wage”. However, it warned a quarter of the lowest fifth of earners are self-employed and not covered by the legal pay floor.
The IFS said that while the government’s minimum wage had been a useful tool for increasing pay levels, workers on average pay had suffered from sluggish growth in earnings in recent years.
It said median earnings for those born in the 1980s were no higher than they were for those born in the 1960 by the same point in their careers, spelling the end of steady growth in median living standards through the 20th century.
Mark Franks, the director of welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the research, said: “Policies such as the minimum wage and tax credits have helped many low earners, but they have not been sufficient to fully protect all low-paid workers, including those among the growing number of self-employed.
“This, in combination with sluggish pay growth and factors such as rising prices and a lack of access to stable housing, has left many individuals and families in vulnerable circumstances.”

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