Young worker’s challenge #7: Precarious working conditions
Young people’s experience of work is increasingly dominated by precarious working conditions. It might be zero-hours or very short-hours contracts, agency work, temporary jobs or fixed term contracts. The flexibility of these contracts are great for employers: bosses can respond to how busy things are – saving money in the times they need fewer staff by not giving them the hours. This is often found in retail and hospitality jobs where young people are more concentrated.
Some young people do benefit from the flexibility of these contracts. For example, if they’re also in full-time education it’s easier to fit work in around studying. However, precarious working conditions often come with low pay, a loss of basic rights and being treated badly by your boss. This high degree of uncertainty also makes it harder for people to plan for the future.
Precarious work often doesn’t offer employees good opportunities for progression. For example, some young people rotate between insecure low paid jobs, poor quality training schemes and unemployment, going round and round. This means they make little progress towards secure, rewarding permanent employment.
Britain’s young core workers very often work in sectors with precarious working conditions and high staff turnover. Seeing so many colleagues come and go creates an atmosphere of insecurity. Many workers feel as if they should be grateful to have a job at all. This can make workers feel like they should simply accept their lot, rather than voice concerns and expect the employer to take them seriously.
Even when someone’s contract in itself is relatively secure, a lack of opportunities in a particular workplace can lead to high staff turnover, such as in the retail sector. People don’t see opportunities to get ahead at work with their current employer so they switch to another in the hopes of getting ahead there. Moving sideways like this rarely works out.
Being in insecure work has a range of damaging consequences for young people but is fast becoming the new norm. It’s crucial that unions rise to the challenge of precarious work to make sure young core workers have a better experience of work.
Britain’s young core workers are the voices that are missing from our movement. They are aspirational, dynamic and want to be successful. But they are often trapped in low income work without the opportunity to progress or achieve what they want.