‘Underemployment’ worries explained by CAB

ANGUS Citizens’ Advice Bureau has issuing a briefing paper on Underemployment in Angus.

Underemployment is defined as a person in employment who:

l wants to work longer hours but can’t (e.g. people in part time work)

l feels that they are overqualified and/or over skilled for their current job.

More than three million Britons are ‘underemployed’ and want to work more hours, an increase of a million since 2008.

During that period there was an increase of 76,000 underemployed workers in Scotland.

The underemployment rate varies throughout the country:

l Dundee 13.6 per cent.

l Angus 11 per cent.

l Aberdeen City 5.1 per cent.

The trend in underemployment is upward as more and more part-time work is all that is on offer. The report states that six per cent of the population of Scotland is in poverty despite being in work.

Another increasing trend is the use by employers of zero hours contracts. Under these an individual undertakes to be available for work but the employer does not undertake to provide any and only pays for hours worked. There are many implications for the employee on zero hours:

l There are no guaranteed regular earnings.

l The need to be available for work can disrupt home and family life.

l Employment rights can become confused and variable.

l The need to be available for work can hinder the ability to search and take up other employment.

l Variability in earnings and hours can cause problems when claiming benefits.

l Zero hours contracts are open to more abuse than regular permanent contracts.

These trends in employment can be seen in the number of employment related enquires that the Angus Bureaux have dealt with in the last financial year (April, 2011, to March, 2012).

CAB had 1,385 new enquires on employment related matters. There were a wide range of issues dealt with but nearly 16 per cent were related to terms and conditions and out of those 49.84 per cent were to do with contracts of employment.

Case evidence suggests that a lack of a clear understanding of contracts of employment causes confusion and distress to those involved. It would appear that both employees and employers can have issues related to terms and conditions. (Over 1.5 per cent of enquires were from employers).

Being clear about what a contract of employment is and what it should contain would have helped many of the people seen by the Angus Bureau.

The trends in employment practice suggest that the demands on the Angus Bureau for advice about employment terms and conditions will only increase.

It is commonly believed that poverty is the result of unemployment.

However the boundaries between poverty and employment are becoming increasingly blurred. The increase in part-time and zero hours contracts has meant that the majority of families that live in poverty do so despite being in employment. Excluding pensioners, there are 6.1 million people in families in work living in poverty compared with 5.1 million people in poverty from workless households.

The trends in employment suggest that the demand on the services of the Angus Bureaux will only increase as people seek to clarify their situations in relation to contracts of employment and the consequences of underemployment and as the lines between work and poverty continue to blur.

If you have an employment issue see: ACAS at www.acas.org.uk or the Citizens Advice online advice service at www.adviceguide.org.uk.

Or contact your the ANGUS CAB office at 11 Millgate, Arbroath, 01241 87066.