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Zero hours contracts and repaying unsecured debts

Posted 26 March 2015

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Flexible, temporary, or zero hours contracts could be hitting British workers hard and making it difficult for them to pay their bills.


Many people around the UK struggle to meet all of their bills and living expenses … and if you’re trying to repay debts on top of this, it can be even harder. If it’s tough to be able to afford all your payments when you’re on a steady income, it can be harder still if the amount you earn changes from week to week.


According to research* carried out for us last year, three in 10 British workers say their income fluctuates week to week. Two-thirds of those say they sometimes or frequently have problems meeting all of their financial commitments, showing that these kinds of jobs are really hitting British workers trying to budget.

No commitment to work

So what are the reasons for people not being able to earn the same amount every week? The research found that one in five of those on a fluctuating income are on a zero hours, flexible or temporary contract. A zero hours contract means that you don’t have any contracted hours for the week, so while your employer could give you 20 or 30 hours of work in one week, they could potentially give you no shifts the next. This can make it really hard to work out a budget to cover all of your bills, as you won’t always know how much you’ll earn in a given week.

If you’re trying to repay unsecured debts, it can be even more difficult to manage these payments if you’re on a zero hours contract. Further research** carried out for us last year found that one in 15 with unsecured borrowing spend more than 50% of their pay cheque on payments every month, including credit cards, personal loans, catalogue debts, store cards, and payday loans. This much debt would be hard enough to deal with for someone on a regular income, but if the amount you earn varies from week to week, you could really start to struggle if you don’t get enough shifts to meet your payments.

Managing the budget

Research*** conducted for us earlier this year found that one in six Brits consider themselves to have a debt problem. If you’re one of these, you could be put under further pressure if you can’t rely on the amount you earn from week to week. If you’re spending more than half of your take-home wages trying to repay your unsecured debts, it’s likely that you may be prioritising these over the essentials.


No matter how much debt you’re in, you need to make sure you cover the basics first and foremost: that’s your utility bills, food, and your rent or mortgage payments. If your debt repayments are getting on top of you and you’re struggling to see a way out of the situation, you don’t have to put up with it alone. Seeking advice from a debt adviser could help you to understand the different debt solutions that may be available to you, and help you to see a way through your problems.

*OnePoll questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 6th June and 16th June 2014, of whom 500 were Scottish residents.


**OnePoll questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 21st November and 28th November 2014, of whom 636 were in Scotland.


***OnePoll questioned a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over between 20th January and 27th January 2015, of whom 635 were in Scotland. Figures have been extrapolated to fit ONS 2013 population projections of 50,371,000 UK adults.


by Sarah Symons

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