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Revealed: scandal of 30,000 NHS workers on zero hours contracts

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19 Nov 2019
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At least 30,000 NHS workers in the UK report employed on zero hours contracts, new GMB analysis of official figures has revealed. 

The true number is likely higher as the statistics may not include outsourced workers, or workers employed through controversial ‘wholly owned subsidiary’ companies that are not bound by nationally agreed employment standards.

The number of NHS workers who report being employed on a zero hours contract has increased fourfold since 2013, much faster than the increase in the wider economy

A review of jobs adverts found that zero hours roles advertised directly by NHS employers, private contractors, and wholly owned subsidiaries. 

GMB, the union for NHS workers, has encountered a wide range of employment problems relating to zero hours contracts in the NHS, including failure to pay proper overtime rates.

GMB supports the Labour Party’s pledge to end the use of zero hours contracts in the NHS and across the wider economy, following the example of New Zealand which banned the contracts in 2016.

Speaking at GMB’s Public Services Conference in Glasgow, Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:

“The NHS is under enormous pressure and cuts and privatisation are linked to a rise in so-called ‘gig economy’ working.

“If you are employed on a zero hours contract then you are denied financial security and the right to predict your hours, and they can make it impossible to access mortgages.

GMB analysis of unpublished ONS Labour Force Survey data 

NHS workers on a zero hours contract 

Labour Force Survey Quarter 2

 

 

 

Year

Workers on ZHCs (n)

Workers on ZHCs (%)

2013

5,910

0.4

2014

20,942

1.3

2015

30,733

1.9

2016

28,883

1.9

2017

41,990

2.7

2018

26,299

1.7

2019

30,264

1.9

 

 

 

 

“At the end of the day, a pressured, demoralised and casualised workforce will end up impacting on patient care.

“Zero hours contracts have no place in the NHS or elsewhere - and these figures may represent the tip of the iceberg.

“Our investigation makes it clear that this is not about bank working, it is about exploitation. We need a new system that preserves some degree of flexibility while ending contracts that do not

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