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  • Published in Secret Diaries

Zero hour contacts mean employees miss out on redundancy money, sick pay and pensions and can't get credit references, loans or mortgages

After I was made redundant from the job I am trained for, I found I hated the Job Seekers (JS) ridiculous system of applying for six jobs a day, for posts I wouldn't even normally look at.

After a few weeks I was bored and decided to look for any job on the JS web site, just as a temporary measure to stop me from going stir crazy. I found a job in a gym as a Membercare Assistant (read cleaner). I thought doing something mindless for a while would probably be OK. You know. Time to contemplate life and all that goes with it.

So I applied and was asked for in an interview. It's a well-known chain of gyms named after the mother of Jesus, and she's very active. It’s owned by a billionaire who owns an island. I was asked lots of corporate questions and asked if my medical condition (I have hyperthyroidism) would be an issue. At the time I felt fit enough. How hard could a bit of cleaning be? A week later I was offered the job. I went in to sign contracts and saw that it was a zero hours contract. I should have walked out there and then, but I asked about it and was told I would have enough hours to make enough to live on. So I signed up.

When I got my rota for the first week, I discovered I was doing 6 am - 11 am for the first two days, then 6am-11am and 7pm to 11pm on the third day. That was fine, if a bit gruelling on the third day, but what was a shock was when I looked at my rota for the second week and found I was down for just one day.

Panic set in. How would I earn enough in the month to pay bills? This was December and I needed to earn enough to pay for Christmas. I was told that in the next month I would ‘probably’ get more hours, but I was learning, there were no guarantees. In the end, the job took too much of a toll on me physically and I had to leave, but I saw first-hand how people get trapped on zero wage contracts.

I met a young Filipino man who had a wife and a small child. He was an engineer in the Philippines and I asked him why he was working as a cleaner. He told me he couldn't look for another job as he didn't have time. He had been at the gym for two years and was working more hours than anyone else. He needed as many hours as possible to make money to live on. He also said he was too exhausted to find an alternative. Even after two years he had no right to a more permanent contract and was asked to leave the gym a week before I left. I wonder what happened to that hard working family man?

The fact that zero hours contracts even exist is a crime, let alone when they’re paired with the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour. There have to be minimum hours if a job is to be considered full time. No one can have any quality of life whilst employers are allowed to get away with employing people only when they please. We have to stand up against this exploitation.

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