Half of shift workers given less than a week’s notice of hours, research reveals

Experts urge businesses to address ‘insecurity premium’ as study finds employees in uncertain forms of work are paying the price

More than half of adults working variable hours are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, research has revealed, leading to calls for employers to address job insecurity.

A poll of more than 2,000 adults, conducted for the Living Wage Foundation – and published in The Living Hours Index found that almost three in five (57 per cent) had roles whose jobs involved variable hours or shift work.

Of these, 55 per cent were given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, while 14 per cent were given less than 24 hours’ notice.

The report also warned of an “insecurity premium” paid by workers on variable hours, with nearly half (47 per cent) of workers on variable hours reporting to have lost £30 or more per month because of factors relating to the uncertainty of their shifts.

This premium was felt worse by low-paid workers, defined as those earning below the Living Wage Foundation’s real Living Wage. Of this group, three in 10 (29 per cent) said they had been forced to increase their reliance on credit to make ends meet, compared to 17 per cent of those at or above the real Living Wage.

The real Living Wage – which is different from the National Living wage – is calculated to be the minimum an individual needs to earn for them and their family to meet the costs of living, and is currently set at £11.05 per hour in London and £9.90 elsewhere.

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The poll also found that more than a fifth (21 per cent) of all workers polled had had shifts cancelled unexpectedly, of whom almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) received less than full pay as compensation, and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) received no pay at all.

Additionally, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of workers who have shorter shift notice periods or whose shifts had been cancelled at short notice said they had higher travel costs as a result, while almost one in five (17 per cent) said they had to pay higher childcare costs.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, warned that many employees who have little notice of shifts or who do not always get the hours they depend on faced “acute difficulties” paying bills or planning their finances.

“Unless the flexibility of variable hours working genuinely works for individuals as well as their employer, workers' wellbeing, job satisfaction and performance will suffer and they will stay only as long as it takes to find a better job,” he said.

Louise Woodruff, policy and partnership manager at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, urged businesses to provide the security their workers needed to be able to plan for their future.

“Being able to plan your life around work is essential for everyone, but we know that for people on the lowest incomes having a reliable income and schedule can provide the firm foundation they need to build a better life for themselves and their families”, said Woodruff.

“Staff really value employers who understand and provide the security they need and can offer loyalty and flexibility in return,” she added.