Jobseekers could risk having their benefits cut if they refuse to take on jobs with zero-hours contracts, it has been revealed.
People claiming jobseeker’s allowance had previoulsy been able to refuse to accept zero-hours jobs without facing penalties but following the introduction of universal credit, people will have to accept the casual contracts or risk facing sanctions.
Zero-hours contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, have come under scrutiny recently for affording employees little financial stability and few real employment rights.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said: “The growth of zero-hours contracts and the exploitative use of them has got to be cracked down on.”
She said the government had questions to answer about “who exactly is at risk of losing benefits for refusing to take a zero-hours contract job”.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions reaffirmed the government’s commitment to making sure everyone seeking benefits was doing their utmost to look for work.
He said: “As now, if there’s a good reason someone can’t just take a particular job they won’t be sanctioned.
“But it is right that people do everything they can to find work and that we support them to build up their working hours and earnings.”
Unions last week called for action against zero-hours contracts.
The move followed a study that showed around 1.4 million jobs involved contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours.