Flexible work hours may sound like an ideal arrangement, but the trend is posing a massive problem for workers in the UK. New research finds that flexible hours and zero hour contracts impose a serious strain on employees contracted in those positions.
A zero hour contract means that the employer is under no obligation to provide any minimum number of hours, and the hours available may be presented on a short term basis.
Flexible working hours, however, involve contracts with minimal hours that are not always set and can change at the discretion of management, sometimes with very short notice.
According to a new study from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, flexible working hours affect 4.6 million people in the UK. These types of contracts are particularly popular among retail and care home workers.
While it might be assumed that zero hour contracts would be more detrimental, according to researchers they are just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Because flexible working hours means no stability, those employees who have rigid commitments like childcare were found to be most adversely affected, often resorting to toxic employer-employee relationships.
“Manager-controlled flexible scheduling causes a huge amount of stress and anxiety for workers who are unable to plan their lives socially or financially as a result,” said Dr. Brendan Burchell from Cambridge’s Department of Sociology and co-author of the study, along with Dr. Alex Wood from Oxford.
Wood worked as a shelf stacker at a UK supermarket and used his experiences, combined with data collected from European Working Conditions Surveys, to conduct the study.
The findings showed that these precarious scheduling practices can be very damaging to self-esteem and mental health, and can force employees into unstable situations where they have to beg for hours that have no guarantee.
This research will hopefully help pave the way for finding ways target these unhealthy scheduling practices and help create more sustainable working environments for the employees most affected.