Universal Credit zero hours contract workers and new right to “request” fixed hour contracts is meaningless?


The BBC is reporting that the review into zero hour contracts is likely to say workers on zero hour contracts should be given right to “request” a fixed hour contract. However, this proposal will also come into direct conflict with the Universal Credit (UC) obligation to seek better or more paid work and crucially not give up any paid work or face benefit sanctions.

Welfare Reform Act 2012
2012 c. 5 Part 1 CHAPTER 2 Work-related requirements Section 17

(1) In this Part a “work search requirement” is a requirement that a claimant take

(a) all reasonable action, and

(b) any particular action specified by the Secretary of State,

for the purpose of obtaining paid work (or more paid work or better-paid work).
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/section/17  (emphasis added)

So if a zero hour worker who claims UC and has a work search requirement was to move to a fixed hour contract, but that decision resulted in being paid less they are at risk of benefit sanctions, thus making fulfillment of  this “request” punitive.

In typical Kafkaesque language the DWP says that they “do not directly influence” UC claimants decisions in this type of situation, but would merely “provide the individual with  information around the merits of each job, and any associated consequences or possible sanctions to enable them to make a decision themselves”.

Making a “request” suggests an employer can say no and workers who do move from a zero hour to a fixed term contract and have UC work search requirements will still be required to take up any additional offers of zero hour, temp or casual work or face benefit sanctions if declined.