Benefits risk to jobseekers refusing zero-hours contracts

5 May 2014

The government has announced that under Universal Credit jobseekers will risk losing their benefits if they turn down certain zero hour contracts without good reason.

In the past, individuals claiming Jobseekers Allowance were able to decline these casual contracts without facing a penalty, but this will change once income-based jobseeker’s allowance is incorporated into the new universal credit system.

Zero-hours contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, and although they are popular with many companies because they offer flexibility; critics say that they can leave workers with little financial stability or security, few employment rights and not enough work.

The government says such contracts offer an average 25 hours work a week and can be a good means of gaining experience: and a spokesman said that when workers did not get the hours they needed their universal credit payments would adjust automatically to ensure they were financially supported. Labour argued that the government should focus on stopping abuse of workers through zero-hours contracts rather than on forcing claimants to accept such working arrangements.