Tuesday, 12 September 2017 08:51



The SNP has attacked the Tory government for forcing low paid workers into exploitative zero-hours contracts and financial destitution – after ministers confirmed that Universal Credit claimants will now face costly benefit sanctions if they do not accept a zero-hours job offer.

Responding to a Parliamentary Question from SNP Social Justice spokesperson Neil Gray MP, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Minister Damian Hinds confirmed that while Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero-hours contract jobs and cannot be sanctioned for refusing an offer, Universal Credit claimants are expected to apply and can be sanctioned. With the full accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit replacing Job Seekers’ Allowance this is likely to become standard policy for all job-seeking claimants.

By forcing people to take zero-hours jobs, the Tory government is pushing them into the arms of unscrupulous employers who can use the exploitative contracts knowing claimants have no choice but to accept. Due to the way Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears, this means if a worker is offered few or no contracted hours in a period they then have little or no income to rely on – marking a significant change from Job Seekers Allowance and pushing people into destitution, crisis and emergency aid.

The confirmation this damaging policy will go ahead marks yet another failure of the Tory government’s Universal Credit and sanctions system, which has been beset by problems and has pushed many claimants in Scotland into financial hardship and rent arrears. Last week the UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities called for a review of UK government benefit sanctions, highlighting their detrimental effect on recipients.  The SNP want to see a wide-ranging review of UK government benefit sanctions, a halt to the roll-out of Universal Credit, and a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts.

Commenting Neil Gray MP said:

“The UK government must ditch its shameful policy of using benefit sanctions to force the low paid into exploitative zero-hours contracts and financial destitution.

“The Tories’ system of punitive benefit sanctions is causing real suffering, and pushing people who are already in hardship into crisis and emergency aid.

“By giving people no choice over zero-hours contracts, the Tory government is pushing them into the arms of unscrupulous employers and leaving families with little or no income to rely on. 

"With fluctuating hours and income it also creates a unacceptable situation where families cannot effectively budget or plan their lives, for instance having to find and pay for childcare without knowing what hours they’ll be given or whether they can afford it.

“This is yet another failure in the shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit, which has been beset by damaging delays and errors in payments.

“With so many serious problems the roll-out of Universal Credit must be halted, there must be a wide-ranging review of the Tory benefit sanctions regime, and rather than forcing families into exploitative zero-hours contracts the UK government should be banning them.

“In Scotland, we are taking a different approach. While 85% of welfare spending - including Universal Credit - remains reserved to the UK Government and firmly in Tory hands, the SNP Scottish Government is working to ensure we build a Scottish Social Security Agency with respect and dignity at its core with the powers that we do have.”

Universal credit: Zero Hours Contracts: Written question – 5690: 

Neil Gray MP: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what his policy is on universal credit claimant sanctioning for (a) refusing an offer of a zero-hours contract and (b) leaving a zero-hours contract voluntarily.

Damian Hinds (05 September 2017): Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero-hours contract jobs. They cannot be sanctioned for refusing an offer of a zero-hours contract job or for leaving such employment voluntarily. Universal Credit payments adjust automatically depending on the amount a claimant earns, so that a claimant whose hours may change are financially supported and do not need to switch their benefit claim. Therefore, a Universal Credit claimant can be expected to apply for a zero-hours contract job if it considered suitable for their individual circumstances. If there is no good reason that a Universal Credit claimant cannot take a zero-hours contract job they may be sanctioned for not doing so. A Universal Credit claimant may still be sanctioned if they do not have good reason for leaving a zero-hours contract job voluntarily.

UN panel criticises UK failure to uphold disabled people's rights: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/31/un-panel-criticises-uk-failure-to-uphold-disabled-peoples-rights

Read 318 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 September 2017 08:58

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