One in five don't let shift workers turn down shifts

Citizens Advice research finds many are too afraid of losing work to turn it down and are given less than 48 hours notice ahead of shifts

One in five employers (22%) don’t allow contracted staff to turn down shifts, according to Citizens Advice.

Its report, How can job security exist in the modern world of work?, also found that one in five employers (19%) report giving contracted staff less than 48 hours notice of their shifts starting, changing or being cancelled. The same number (19%) say staff can’t specify times or days when they’re unavailable to work.

The report cites one man who turned to the charity for help, who said he rarely turns down shifts out of nervousness he won’t be offered more work. He reported that his zero-hour contract means that from week to week he could be working anything from 20 to 70 hours.

“Thankfully I always have enough to cover my rent [but] it's hard as I don't ever know how much money I will earn, which makes it hard to plan ahead for things,” he said.

Echoing the report’s call for employers to improve how they manage workers who have non-standard contracts, chief executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said: “The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years but employment practices have not kept pace.

“While flexible hours work well for some people, many find that the unpredictability and short notice of shifts makes managing life around their job a huge challenge. Childcare and study are just two examples of plans where you need more than 48 hours to arrange, but for some people turning down work is simply not an option.”

She added that “Bosses have a duty of care to all of their staff, no matter what type of contract they’re on.”

The report recommended employers make better use of technology, such as introducing a platform or app where people can specify in advance when they are available.

The charity is also calling on government to take action. One recommendation it has made is requiring large employers to publish information on the proportions of their workforce on different contract types, so that businesses actively consider the overall shape of their workforce and the quality of jobs offered.

“The government is already taking welcome action to tackle some of the root causes of insecurity in the labour market, such as through its review of modern employment, investigation into the rights and treatment of non-permanent staff and increased investment in minimum wage enforcement,” said Guy.

“[But] steps such as better management of flexible workers and transparency around workforce makeup could transform the labour market and deliver real improvements to the ever growing ranks of flexible workers.”