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Second choice jobs

30 March 2015

The real life impact of the changing world of work – notes from the frontline

secondchoicejobscover

The economy is recovering but many workers are not feeling the benefits. This could simply be down to the slow rate of recovery, but it could also suggest a fundamental shift in the labour market. Many employers innovated during the recession, increasing their use of temporary contracts, split shifts and short hours work rather than making people redundant – and these practices seem to be sticking in some sectors even as the economy recovers. This report explores the lived experience of these modern working patterns – which may well be here to stay – and their effects on people’s lives.

Since 2008 more people are in temporary work, work multiple jobs or have zero hour contracts. Unusual working patterns can present positive choices for some people. But we have found widespread evidence that many people are struggling in ‘second choice jobs’, often fighting hard to make ends meet and maintain a decent quality of life. People are bringing more employment and in-work benefit problems to Citizens Advice, and in-work poverty is increasing. And we know from the cases we see every day that work which gives people little security or certainty of income or of their working patterns has a detrimental impact on many different aspects of their lives.

This new research with local Citizens Advice staff, volunteers and clients finds that people are paying the price for second choice jobs in eight ways. Second choice jobs make it harder to budget, increase exposure to financial risks, increase the chances of struggling with debt, make benefits and tax credit claims more difficult, make it unclear what you're entitled to at work and make you afraid to ask, limit consumer choice and make it hard to plan family time.

The Citizens Advice Report ‘ Second Choice Jobs: The real life impact of the changing world of work – notes from the frontline’ found that:

  • 75% of Citizens Advice staff and volunteers feel that clients are more likely to have fluctuating hours or shift patterns than a year ago.
  • 74% of Citizens Advice staff and volunteers feel that clients with fluctuating income or shift patterns have problems with childcare
  • 87% of Citizens Advice staff and volunteers state that clients with fluctuating income or shift patterns have problems with benefits.

Employers have reacted quickly to changes in the business environment, but the benefit system and employment law have not kept pace. This has left many people marginalised, and missing out due simply to the structure of the work available to them.

The severity of detriment, complication and the way that it can affect all areas of a person’s life is clear. This requires the Government and indeed employers to look beyond those who are enjoying the flexibility of this type of work and focus on improving the lives of those forced into difficult compromises at the sharp end of these working practices.