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Ethnic minority women most likely to be trapped in zero-hour uncertainty

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 25 Jun 2021

At the end of 2020 Black and ethnic minority women made up the largest proportion of workers on insecure contracts, being almost twice as likely to be working on zero-hour contracts than white men.

A recent study by Trades Union Congress (TUC) and equality organisation Race on the Agenda showed that around one in six zero-hours contract workers were BAME*. 

It also found 4.5% of BAME women were on zero-hour contracts in the last three months of 2020, compared with just 2.5% of White men. Completing the picture, 4.1% of BAME men and 3.2% of white women were on zero-hours contracts during the same period. 

The one-sided flexibility of these contracts leaves BAME women uncertain of how much money they will make week to week and whether they will be able to keep a roof over their heads and their families fed. BAME women are finding themselves trapped in these situations, unable to create a stable life or plan effectively, with over half of BAME insecure workers saying they’ve been allocated a shift with less than a day’s notice. 

Further exacerbating this, 40% of BAME workers on insecure contracts feel unable to turn down shifts as they fear being denied further work, compared with 25% of white insecure workers. The TUC general secretary is calling on the government to challenge the systemic discrimination that holds BAME workers back by banning zero-hours contracts. 

*This is the language of most data collection systems. For ease of understanding the term BAME is used in this article.