The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reported that the number of people in insecure work in the UK has reached a record high of 4.1 million.

This finding is based on new TUC analysis of official statistics, which shows a significant increase in precarious employment forms, including zero-hours contracts, low-paid self-employment, and casual or seasonal work. Since 2011, the number of people in insecure work has risen by nearly one million.

Disproportionate Growth Compared to Secure Employment

The TUC analysis indicates that insecure work has grown nearly three times faster than secure employment over the same period. Specifically, insecure work increased by 31%, while secure employment rose by just 11%. Currently, an estimated 1 in 8 workers in the UK are employed in precarious positions, with the figure rising to 1 in 7 in regions like the West Midlands and the South West.

The growth in insecure work has been most pronounced in lower-paid sectors. Since 2011, the number of people in precarious employment within care, leisure, service occupations, and elementary occupations has surged by over 600,000, marking a 70% increase.

The TUC’s analysis also highlights a severe pay penalty for those in insecure work. Workers on zero-hours contracts earn, on average, 35% less per hour than those on median pay. Similarly, the pay gap for workers in seasonal and casual employment compared to median earners is 33% and 37%, respectively.

Urgent Need for a New Deal

The TUC stresses the urgent need for improved workers’ rights and measures to make work pay. They advocate for Labour’s New Deal for Working People, which promises substantial enhancements in workers’ rights, if fully implemented.

Recent polling by the Chartered Management Institute reveals strong support for key policies of the New Deal among managers. Over 82% of managers believe granting workers fundamental day-one rights is important, while 74% support a ban on zero-hours contracts and the publication of ethnicity and disability pay gaps. Furthermore, 80% of managers agree that workers’ rights should be a top priority in national policies, with 83% indicating that such changes could positively impact workplace productivity.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak emphasises the need for a government that will improve working conditions. He criticises the past 14 years under Conservative leadership, citing an increase in insecure, low-paid jobs, and a detrimental impact on growth, productivity, and living standards. “Real wages are still worth less than in 2008, and across the country people are trapped in jobs that offer little or no security,” Nowak states.