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Zero-hours contracts reduce Scottish workers to reliance on foodbanks and legal loan sharks

Citizens Advice Scotland finds firms are 'frankly misusing' the contracts to 'exploit their workers'

“Abusive” zero-hours contracts have reduced even working households to reliance on foodbanks and legal loan sharks, case workers revealed yesterday. 

Citizens Advice Scotland cried shame on bosses “frankly misusing” the legal loophole as its internal research yielded stories of workers paid so scarcely that they faced bankruptcy and even prosecution for unpaid bills.

The example of a man who earned just £150 in a month after being given just three days’ work is included the charity’s “Working on The Edge” report.

Another laundry worker in the north of Scotland had effectively been laid off for three weeks while her boss had machines repared. 

Both workers were referred to foodbanks.

The contracts, which leave employees with no fixed income from week to week, spurred MPs on Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee in April to declare that “the overwhelming majority of zero-hours contracts are abusive and exploitative and should be abolished.”

A driver in the east of Scotland had sought advice on bankruptcy law to escape his mounting debts, while a waitress in the same area had confided that her scant shifts had left her owing nearly £5,000 to payday lenders.

Citizens Advice Scotland policy manager Keith Dryburgh insisted that zero-hours contracts could be applied fairly.

But many firms were “frankly misusing it to exploit their workers.”

“Nobody in 2014 should be in a position where they are working but don’t have the security of an actual income,” he said.

About 1.4 million people across Britain are employed on zero-hours contracts, with women accounting for more than half that number.

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