- Nearly half (45%) of all minority ethnic workers are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, compared to 28% of white workers;
- Minority ethnic shift workers are more likely to have their hours cancelled unexpectedly (experienced by 38% compared to 24% of white shift workers), and compensated below their full rate of pay;
- 27% of minority ethnic workers in insecure jobs were forced to increase their reliance on credit/debt because of short notice of working hours or cancelled shifts, compared to 19% of white workers;
- A quarter (24%) of minority ethnic workers who have experienced short shift notice periods or shift cancellations are forced to pay higher childcare costs as a result, compared to 16% of white workers.
Minority ethnic workers are disproportionately employed in the UK’s most insecure jobs, new research by the Living Wage Foundation reveals. The study found that nearly half (45%) of all minority ethnic workers in the UK are given less than a week’s notice of their working hours, compared to 28% of white workers.
The research – based on four surveys of a total of 8,000 UK adults interviewed by Survation – analyses shift notice periods and cancellations, highlighting the extreme precariousness of jobs worked disproportionately by minority ethnic workers amidst a deepening cost-of-living crisis, often for the lowest wages in the UK.
The study highlighted that workers from minority ethnic backgrounds are more exposed to unstable working patterns because a large majority (71%) are employed in shift work compared to just over half (53%) of white workers. But even amongst shift workers, those from minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to face forms of insecurity such as short notice periods and cancelled shifts. Minority ethnic shift workers are more likely to:
- Be called into work at less than a week’s notice (experienced by 63% of minority ethnic shift workers, compared to 54% of white shift workers);
- Have their shifts cancelled unexpectedly (38%, compared to 24% of white shift workers);
- Receive less than half their regular wage when shifts are cancelled (74%, compared to 66% of white shift workers).
The research found that minority ethnic workers, who are disproportionately paid the lowest wages in the UK, are more significantly hit by the financial price of being in insecure forms of work – the ‘insecurity premium’. A quarter (24%) of minority ethnic shift workers are forced to pay higher childcare costs as a result of unstable working hours, compared to 16% of white workers.
This ‘insecurity premium’ is costly for workers and especially for those who are already low paid. Over a quarter (27%) of minority ethnic shift workers were forced to increase their reliance on credit/debt to make ends meet, compared to 19% of white workers.
Despite the challenging economic environment facing employers, many are stepping up to tackle insecure jobs. There are now 40 Living Hours employers– including Aviva, the West Brom and Spareroom – committed to providing stable and secure Living Hours to workers.
Living Hours commits employers to providing at least 4 weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period. Living Hours employers also provide a guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise), and a contract that accurately reflects hours worked.
Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said:
“This report shows the reality facing a disproportionate number of minority ethnic workers in the UK – one of precarious work amid an uncertain economy. It is shocking that almost half of all minority ethnic workers in the UK face soaring inflation given less than a week’s notice of their shifts, making planning a life and a budget impossible.
“Low pay and insecure work are deeply intertwined and minority ethnic workers and families are disproportionately impacted. Employers who commit to providing Living Hours alongside real Living Wage are not only supporting their staff through a cost-of-living crisis, they take a step on a much bigger journey: towards racial equality in the UK labour market."
Matthew Sheehan, Managing Director of Enabled Living, an accredited Living Hours Employer, said:
“Times are tougher for most people than ever before. Here at Enabled Living we want to ensure our workers, and their families, can count on a reliable income that meets, as a minimum, their everyday needs. We know that our commitment to both a minimum hourly rate and a minimum hours promise means that our workers can budget for the future.
The Living Hours Index 2: Exploring the ethnicity hours gap
As the last ‘Living Hours Index’ showed, a third (32 per cent) of the UK workforce get less than a week’s notice for shifts, working hours, or work schedules, while 8 per cent get less than 24 hours’ notice. This new research shows that, like wages, work insecurity also has a racialised dynamic.
Notes to editors
 Living Wage Foundation analysis of Survation data. Data for second and fourth quarters in 2021 and first and third quarters in 2022 was merged together and analysed as a single data-source. The pooled data yielded a sample of 8,170 respondents aged 18+ who live in the UK. All samples were asked: In your main job, what is the minimum amount of notice you get of your working hours, shifts or work schedules?
About Living Hours
The Living Wage campaign is based on the idea that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. However pay is not the only thing affecting in-work poverty: this is also driven by the number and security of hours people work. That is why we are asking employers to provide Living Hours alongside the real Living Wage. Living Hours offers a practical solution that employers can adopt to help provide the security and stability that low paid workers need to make ends meet. The Living Hours campaign was developed over an 18-month period of consultation with workers, Living Wage Employers, trade unions and experts. This culminated in a set of measures to tackle the problems associated with casualised and insecure work:
- At least four weeks’ notice for shifts, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period
- The right to a contract that reflects actual hours worked.
- A guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week (unless the worker requests otherwise
By offering Living Hours to directly employed staff who might be at risk of in-work poverty and relevant third-party staff covered by the Living Wage commitment, employers are committing to provide workers with secure hours and predictable shifts. This means continuing to build relationships with employees based on dignity and respect, as well as shaping employment cultures with shared responsibility and reciprocity at their heart.
For more information on the Living Hours scheme, visit: https://www.livingwage.org.uk/living-hours
Throughout this report, we use the term ‘minority ethnic’ to describe workers from non-white backgrounds. We recognise that any term like this, which groups together different ethnic groups into a single category fails to fully capture the nuance of individual minority ethnic groups, and their experiences in the labour market. That is why in our previous research on the ethnicity pay gap, we analysed each ethnic group independently. This research found that not only were there gulfs between white and ethnic minority workers when it comes to being paid less than the Living Wage, but also that there were significant wage gaps between different minority ethnic groups.
However, because data on the ‘Living Hours’ measures – such as shift notice periods and shift cancellations – are not available within national-level labour market datasets, we are reliant upon polling data, with much smaller samples, to explore the ethnicity hours gap. As such, in order to ensure we have a sufficient sample to draw analysis from, we have grouped different ethnic groups together and analysed as a single cohort. We acknowledge that conducting research in this way does obscure some of the nuances highlighted above.