Insecure work has tightened the grip of structural racism on the labour market and deepened gender inequalities, the TUC has warned.
The union body urged ministers to bring forward its long-delayed employment bill as it announced a new analysis which reveals that women of colour are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men (4.7% compared with 2.4%).
Overall, non-white workers are significantly overrepresented on zero-hours contracts compared with white workers (4.3% compared with 3%). The TUC calls this “structural racism in action.”
Black women were the most disproportionately affected group, followed by black men (4.7% compared with 4%).
White women are also significantly more likely than white men to be on zero-hours contracts (3.6% compared with 2.4%).
Figures published by the ONS last month show that more than one million workers are now on zero-hours contracts. Research by the CIPD meanwhile, has suggested that there is more secure work now than there was 10 years ago.
Status of Workers Bill
The TUC campaigns on the basis that zero-hours contracts hand the employer total control over their workers’ hours and earning power. This means, it says, workers never know how much they will earn each week, and their income is subject to the whims of managers.
The union body argues that this makes it hard for workers to plan their lives, look after their children and get to medical appointments. And it makes it harder for workers to challenge unacceptable behaviour by bosses because of concerns about whether they will be penalised by not being allocated hours in future.
Such insecurity can be particularly challenging for those who have caring responsibilities, it argues, which is overwhelmingly women.
The TUC added that the pandemic has shone a light on the inequalities at the heart of the labour market. Workers from ethnic minorities are overrepresented in insecure jobs, which have limited rights, and have faced disproportionately high Covid-19 mortality rates as well as low pay, the union said.
The TUC repeated its call for a ban on zero-hours contracts, by giving workers a right to a contract which reflects their normal hours of work. It also recommended the introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting. It pointed out that the government had failed to bring forward the employment bill to ban zero-hours contracts and boost workers’ rights, despite first promising the legislation well over two years ago.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Insecure work is endemic in modern Britain, with more than a million people still having to rely on zero-hours contracts to make ends meet.
“And it is black and minority ethnic workers – particularly women – who are getting trapped in jobs with the worst pay and the worst conditions, struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.
“The time for excuses is over. Insecure work is tightening the grip of structural racism on the labour market and deepening gender inequalities.
“We need to end the scourge of insecure work once and for all. That’s how you start to tackle the structural racism that holds black and minority ethnic workers back. And that’s how you take meaningful action to fight for gender equality in the labour market.”