Young Welsh workers three times as likely to be on a zero-hours contact as over-25s
Young Welsh workers aged up to 24 are around three times more likely to be on zero-hours contracts than those aged 25 and over, according to research undertaken by the Wales TUC.
Around one in 12 (8.2%) young workers aged 16 to 24 are employed on zero-hours contracts compared to one in 38 (2.6%) of over 25s.
People employed on zero-hours contracts are classified as ‘workers’ (without employee status), which means they miss out on essential rights like the ability to request flexible working or the right to return to the same job after maternity, adoption, paternity or shared parental leave.
Many zero-hours contract workers also miss out on key social security rights such as full maternity pay and paternity pay.
The report highlights that, across the UK, just under half a million young workers (474,000) are employed on a zero-hours contract. It also reveals that nearly three-quarters (72%) of young employees aged 16 to 24 across the UK miss out on key employment rights at work.
While some workplace rights for employees begin from day one of employment, others only kick in after two years of continuous service – including protection from unfair dismissal and the right to statutory redundancy pay.
Employees aged 16 to 24 are far less likely to have built up two years of continuous service in the same job, so are much more likely to miss out on key protections. That means nearly three in four young employees (72%) don’t qualify for vital employment rights, compared to around one in four (27%) of working people aged 25 and over.
Young workers are also paid less. Median hourly pay for 16 to 17-year-olds is £8 per hour and £10.90 for 18 to 21-year-olds, compared to £15.83 for all employees. This is partly because the National Living Wage (currently £10.42 per hour) does not kick in until an employee is 23.
The UK Government has accepted the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations to increase the National Living Wage to £11.44 from April 2024, expand it to 21 and 22-year-olds, lift the rate to £8.60 for 18 to 20-year-olds, and to £6.40 for 16 to 17-year-olds and apprentices.
These changes follow pressure from unions and campaigners. The TUC says that this is a positive step – but that the top rate must be made available to all working people, regardless of age.
Even with these current announcements a 20-year-old doing the same minimum wage job as a 23-year-old will still be earning £2.93 per hour (28%) less.
Black and ethnic minority workers are also particularly hard hit, as they’re disproportionately more likely to be on a zero hour contract than white workers.
Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said: “Too many young workers are trapped in insecure work, on lower pay and without the workplace rights most of us take for granted. That’s not right.
“Banning zero-hours contracts, giving all workers day one rights in a job and removing age bands from the minimum wage would be life changing for younger workers.
“It would give them a secure contract – so they knew how many hours they’d work each week. It would stop fire at will – making sure every worker is protected from unfair sacking from day one in the job.
It would make sure they were entitled to maternity and paternity pay when they have kids. And it would give them a chance to work for a decent future.”
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