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Councils using zero hours, casual staff and the work programme

More responses added October 7 2013.

This post lists the results of an FOI we recently sent to councils to get a rough idea of how many people councils employ on zero hours-type working arrangements and how many councils were using the work programme. (In reporting we've done on workfare in the US, we found that paid and unionised public sector workers were replaced with people on New York's workfare programme as city bosses looked to cut wage budgets. It's worth keeping an eye on trends here as large numbers of paid staff are cut from the public sector).

The numbers in this blog are intended as a basic guide. Other people may want to use them as a starting-point for asking for more questions about employment arrangements at their local authorities and in different services.

It's interesting to note the sorts of jobs that people must work on zero hour terms and/or as casual workers: care workers feature often for example. Some arrangements for casual staff aren't really too different from zero hours working, but you'll see councils below arguing that the difference is substantial, because casual workers aren't on call as such and are "free" to pursue other work. In fact, there's plenty of room for unscrupulous employer behaviour in both.

It can be very difficult for workers to unionise to fight for their wages and terms and conditions if they're on casual "as and when" arrangements. And there are so many problems masked by apparently benign (sort of) words and phrases from employers like "casual workers are under no obligation to take work from us and are free to take up other jobs" or even the words "permanent job."

We've spoken to careworkers (home careworkers in particular) who are not always sure at the start of each day where they'll be working, if they'll be sent to cover a more urgent job and how long they'll have to travel to get there and how much they'll be paid for that travel time if they're paid at all. The Resolution Foundation recently found that the non-payment for travel time between caring assignments pushed wages for some workers down to as little as £5 an hour.

We've also spent a lot of time talking to workers who have permanent jobs, but have been attacked from other angles: the slashing of their wages when their jobs and services have been outsourced, for example. That's happening to these support workers in this story too - their wages are being cut and their jobs downgraded to make the care business they work for "more competitive", their managers say (no matter, as you'll see from that story, that bloggers, residents, service users and their families saw that coming and explained in detail why outsourcing the service would never work when the outsourcing was pushed through a year ago).

There are workers whose wages are being forced down because they work in areas where competition for contracts is fierce and wages aren't protected during the tendering process (some unions are fighting for that). There are also people who are being told to take wage cuts while their senior managers take pay rises and bonuses (see the One Housing Group dispute here). There are a LOT of people fighting wage cuts around the country. This list will give you an idea of the extent of these disputes. These people are being hung out to dry by unscrupulous bosses who are hellbent on driving down wages and returning maximum profits to shareholders and boards.

Hopefuly, the zero hours debate means a light will be shone on all of these issues.

There are lots of people on zero hours, most definitely:

So -

Barking and Dagenham:

Zero hours: 504 people on zero hours contracts working in: Adult & Community Services 231, Chief Executive's 137, Children & Young People 114, Finance & Resources, 12, Housing & Environment 10


Bedford: Zero hours: 54 people, employed in Adult and Community Services and Children’s Services

Work programme: 6 people in Adult & Community Services.
Provider: The former Sheltered Placement Programme. The council says it “also employed a significant number of individuals on the Future Job Fund Programme when that was running.”



Zero hours: Says the council:

"The council does not have any employees on zero-hours contracts. It does have workers who work on zero-hours working arrangements. The number of workers on these arrangements fluctuates on a monthly basis depending on demand. In August 2013 there were 750 such individuals, working in Adults & Communities, Children Young People & Families, Local Services."



Zero hours/casuals: 315 "casuals" who are employed on an “as and when needed” basis. This figure does not include schools.
These people work in Adult Services, Childrens Services, Built Environment, Democratic Services, Human Resources, Communication and Engagement, Leisure & Operational

Work programme: Says the council: "We are currently delivering the Work Programme under subcontract to A4e. None of our customers are on placement within Blackpool Council. However, there are 2 other Work Programme providers locally, A4e and Inspire2Independence. It is possible that they may have contacted departments directly and agreed to place their customers into unpaid work placements."


Bracknell Forest:

Zero hours:

Says the council: "The council has a number of people its payroll who do not have guaranteed hours of work, whom we refer to as casuals or reliefs. However it should be noted these workers all work under agreements where there is no mutuality of obligation.  i.e. there is no obligation for them to work when we ask them to. They are not required to be available at all times or to work exclusively for us. They are not denied basic rights such as annual leave. Casual workers who will be with us for more than three months also have the option to join the pension scheme."

There are 799 members of staff employees as casuals as per above, working in leisure roles, schools or social care.


Brighton and Hove:

Says the council:

"No individual within Brighton & Hove City Council is considered to be employed on a zero-hours contract. However the council has a wide variety of casual workers who work hours on an ad hoc basis across service areas where additional capacity or cover is needed for seasonal work or staff absence. There is no ‘mutuality of obligation’ with casual workers and consequently there is no expectation that the council would offer work or that individuals would accept it if work were offered.

Consequently, there is no ongoing contractual relationship. If we used zero hours contracts, there would be an on-going contractual relationship with these individuals even when they are not working. However, in reality there is no real difference between the two and the terms “zero hours” and “casual” are used interchangeably in employment cases in tribunals.

In view of this, we are providing you with information relating to casual workers who undertook work for the council during the three month period, May to July 2013." During this period, 1254 casual workers were engaged. This figure excludes casual workers who may have been engaged by schools.

The demand for casuals to perform various roles fluctuates but the main areas are: Care (‘Care Crew’ is a bank of casual workers), Administration (‘Admin All Areas’ is a bank of casual workers) Brighton Centre & Royal Pavilion - security and setting up of events/shows Contact Supervisors – they provide supervision for visits between children and parents Libraries Hostels & Supported Accommodation Electoral Services - electoral roll, poll clerks etc Seafront lifeguards."



Zero hours:
"at 31 March 2013, we had 1,138 people on a zero hour contract."

Most of our zero hour workers are in social care carrying out roles such as youth support work, school crossing workers, support workers for older people and residential/night care support. Many also work in roles relating to teaching or training, eg teaching assistants, qualification assessors or supply teachers. Other types of staff on zero hours contracts include catering assistants, caretakers and cleaners, registration officers, and admin/general assistants.


Cheshire West and Chester:

Zero hours: 28 people - 11 in Children’s Services, 3 in Growth and Prosperity, 13 in Localities and 1 person in Strategic Commissioning.

Update 16 September: a contributor observed in the comments below that this press article said 200 people at this council were on zero hours contracts. So we're adding that.



Zero hours: "As at 30 June 2013 there were 296 members of staff (head count) with casual (zero hours) contracts only, working in Place, People and Resources."



Zero hours: In July 2013, the authority paid 564 workers on zero hour contracts, working in Adults Health & Housing, Chief Executives, Children & Young People’s Services, Neighbourhoods, Resources



Zero hours: 73 people who "are a mixture of intervention workers, support workers, porters & care assistants."



Zero hours: Says the council: "Doncaster Council does engage staff on contracts that do not guarantee a minimum quantity of work to the individual. These individuals apply to be placed on a relief/casual register. Please note that when work is offered to any of these individuals they are not compelled to accept it."

300 people are engaged on this basis, predominantly in Cleaning, Caretaking, Transport, Libraries and Care.



Zero hours:

From the council: "1,764 zero hours ‘as and when staff’ employed by ECC (as of 29 July 2013). ‘Zero based hours’ employees may work across all departments in ECC. Casual, zero based employees are normally sessional workers and ad hoc employees. This would include sessional tutors, casual bar employees, models for life classes, ad hoc seasonal staff (country parks), peak relief employees, registration/exam invigilators, instructors and learning support assistants."

More details of job roles here (this list has included roles over the last few years like Administrative Assistant, Administrative Co-ordinator, Administrative/Clerical Assistant, Adult Social Care Social Worker, Advanced Practitioner, Answers Direct Assistant, Answers Direct Officer, Archive Assistant, Area & TASCC Youth Worker, Area Youth Worker TYD): 


Gateshead: In a long explanation, the council says that its numbers include:

“Casual employees who are part of the council’s long-standing approach to resourcing one-off events, seasonal work, and absence and emergency cover. Some casual employees work for the council infrequently and have no obligation to accept work offered and the council is under no obligation to supply work. If they work for us more than once, each period worked is treated as a separate period of employment.

Others work on a more frequent basis but not enough to have an established pattern of work and are classed as zero hours casuals. They now have now been given continuous service recognised w.e.f. 1 June 2013, entitling them access to additional employee benefits, including the pension scheme. Other employees who were previously engaged on casual contracts, but who were in fact working quite regularly, have been moved from their casual status and appointed to substantive posts on the establishment. As a result, the number of employees on zero hours contracts has reduced recently.”

So - zero hours/casual: 1291 as at 6 September 2013 Working in: Access & Inclusion, for Adult Care providers, Children &Young People Service, Catering & Cleaning, Schools, Children and Families and Young Offenders, Communities & Neighbourhoods, Facilities Management, Libraries & Arts, Legal and Corporate Services, Raising Achievement, Libraries, Arts and Culture Register, Sport & Leisure, Transport Services/Strategy.



Zero hours: 180 people: Celebrant/Registration Officers, Library Assistants, in Social Care, as Cycling Instructors, various other roles (not specified by the council).

Work programme: The council says that it employs "fewer than 5 individuals through this programme" and that it can't provide further detail at the risk of identifying people. The people on the work programme work in Enabling & Transition. The council works with the work programme provider Prospects.



Zero hours: Two staff on zero hour contracts "who were TUPE’d into the council in April 2013 and who are being offered permanent contracts."

Work programme: Four people working at the council as work programme placements. One person in Vehicle Maintenance and 3 working in Meals on Wheels. Work programme providers: Ingeus and A4E



Zero hours: 885. BSS (Business Strategy and Support) 2, CC (Customer and Communities) 250, ELS (Education, Learning and Skills) 46, FSC (Families and Social Care) 587



Zero hours: 62, working as traffic census operatives, museum visitor assistants and exhibition officers.


North Tyneside:

Zero hours: 328 (the council is at pains to say that although these contracts are classified as “zero hours contracts”, "the nature of these contracts are that individuals may be called upon as and when required, without any mutuality of obligation on either party to either supply work or to accept work."

They work in: Cultural Services – Leisure , Schools, Learning and Skills – Adult Learning Alliance, Law and Governance – Registrars, Electoral Services, Environmental Services – Waste Management, Preventative and Safeguarding Services – Early Help and Support, Youth Services


North Yorks:

Zero hours: 3590 staff on zero hours contracts who do not have a substantive contract. 2923 are schools supply staff, predominantly teachers, and 667 are non-schools.

Says the council in another long explanation: "the majority of zero hours contracts are supply teachers used by schools as and when needed. Other than this group NYCC has always had a number of staff on casual contracts but the majority are substantive employees with a permanent set hour contract. The staff are mostly care staff and have an additional “zero hour” contract to enabled them to work at a different location as additional hours if they wish to...Many care staff, most who work part time, also have a zero hours contract and some have 2 or 3 so they can work across different teams on an “as and when” basis."

Other staff on zero hours include: 50 drivers for social care services, approx 100 catering and cleaning staff. Libraries, says the council, have zero hours contracts "to cover staff absences" as does the registrars' service. So that's: Schools – Teaching and Non-Teaching staff, Care Teams, Drivers for Social Care Services, Catering, Cleaning, Library Staff, Registrars



Zero hours:

The council says it has people on zero hours contracts, but can't give more detail because "a review of zero hours contractual arrangements is being undertaken." The people on those contracts work in Lifelong Learning.

Work programme: Yes. "12 people have been on a traineeship or apprenticeship with Oldham Council. 8 which are still with us and 4 have left." 11 worked or work in environmental services and 1 with First response.

The council's work programme providers? "we work with all the work programme providers, including Avanta, Remploy, PSO, Seetec, Work Solutions and G4S."


Redcar and Cleveland:

Work programme: 13 people on the work programme. Corporate Resources, 2 people,
Regeneration Services, 11 people. Work programme provider: Avanta



Zero hours: Nobody employed on zero hours contracts, says the council. There are casual workers working for the council who are only paid for the hours they work.



Zero hours: The council says that "In the 2012/13 tax year, 617 employees were paid on casual zero hour contracts to cover temporary short term staffing shortages." These workers, says the council, "are used to cover temporary short term staff shortages predominantly in Catering, Cleaning, Social Care and Libraries."


St Helens

Zero hours: No workers on zero hour contracts. There are "casual" or "relief" employees who the council says work when:

“a. where service must be provided at set staffing levels and there is a need to cover permanent staff short terms absences, eg residential care services, leisure services, etc.

b. where the demand for the service fluctuates and there may be short term needs to cover increased demand, eg youth work, play schemes, sports/leisure facilities, adult learning services, etc.

The true definition of a zero-hours contract relates to the situation where a worker is not guaranteed work but has to be available for work at certain times and is obliged to work any hours that are offered. The council does not employ anyone on this basis. This contrasts with the situation where a worker is not guaranteed a set number of hours, does not have to be available at specific times and can choose whether or not they wish to accept any hours offered. In this situation individuals are usually offered a place on a pool and there is no obligation on either the council to offer hours of work, or for the workers to accept any hours they are offered.

At St Helens we refer to this as casual or relief employment, but are aware that such arrangements are often confused with zero-hours contracts."

The council had the following casual employees:

June 2013 502 of 7189 employees (6.98%)

March 2013 574 of 7257 employees (7.91%)

These figures include employees in schools.



Casual workers: "On 1/4/13 there were 1928 people registered as casual workers with the council."



Says the council: "The council do not have any zero hours contracts. Where staff are required to work on an as and when basis, they are issued with a letter of engagement.  The letter of engagement clearly sets out that there is no mutual obligation, by both parties, to either offer work or undertake work."

It's easy to see how employers can remove themselves from zero hours criticism with this sort of arrangement. Such arrangements do not offer job security, or secure hours, or even any hours but they are not technically zero hours contracts.



Zero hours: 338 people working in Adult Social Care 180, Business Transformation 1, Childrens Services 96, Governance 1, Places 44, Resources 16.

Work programme: three people working in Resources. Work programme provider: Job Centre.




Zero hours: 18 people working in the Learning Disabilities Service


Stockton on Tees:

Work programme: 6 people, all working in Cleansing. Work programme providers: Job Centre Plus, DISC, Shaw Trust, Probation Service.



Zero hours: 34, working in Learning & Employment, Estate and Asset Management, Early Years & Play, Culture & Tourism


South Gloucestershire:

Zero hours: 82 people as at end August 2013 working in Department of Children, Adults & Health

Work programme: 6 people at the moment. Work programme providers are JHP and Rehab Jobfit.


South Tyneside:

Zero hours: Says the council:

“As at 1/4/2013 there were 284 assignments with zero hour contracts, excluding schools.”

They work in roles across the council in each "strategic group" – Business and Area Management, Children, Adults and Families, and Economic Regeneration."



Zero hours:
Says the council: "We engage Tutors on zero based contracts.  As at 31 March 2013 the number of Tutors on zero based contracts were 30; these were people who had been with the council for the whole financial year.  Tutors work for the adult education service that sits in our environment & leisure department."



Zero hours: Says the council:

"The council does not employ people on zero hours contracts, rather we have Permanent Variable Hours (PVH) contracts in which the employee is a permanent employee with all the same terms and conditions of employment and benefits as everyone else, pro rata to the number of hours they actually work.."

Our note: this sort of contract can be unstable: people don't always know how many hours they'll have or when they'll have them each week. We've certainly spoken with library workers who went from knowing which shifts they'd have each week to being told that they largely had to be available for any, including evenings and weekends.

Work programme: Sunderland council says: "yes we accommodate people from the Mandatory Work Programme on work experience. We have accommodated 26 people so far and continue to do so through a rolling programme."

These people work in Responsive Local Services. The council's work programme provider is Sunderland North Community Business Centre (SNCBC).



Work programme: The council answered Yes to this question, saying: "the council works with Job Centre Plus to offer voluntary work experience placements to young people. The council currently has one individual on a work experience placement in Customer Service & Advocacy." Work programme provider is Tameside Job Centre Plus.


Telford and Wrekin:

Zero hours: People employed on zero hours contracts/zero hours working arrangements: 40 Job titles of people on zero hours contracts: Adult & Community Learning Tutor, Classroom Music Teacher, Music Development Officer, Specialist Music Instructor


Tower Hamlets:

Zero hours: Said the council: "In year 12/13, the council employed 247 active employees on zero hour contracts. This figure may vary slightly from previously quoted figures as it is based upon a more dynamic definition of zero hours contracts where staff who were held on the payroll system but had not worked for a period of time or, in some cases, never. When the council offers work, it is the decision of the worker as to whether or not to
take that work. Zero hours workers are located in a number of services across the council, including Idea Stores Learning (Tutors), THAMES (Tutors), Community Languages (Tutors), Registrars (Registrars - demand driven) and Holiday Play Schemes (Youth Workers)."



Work programme: 2 people working in ETO – Groundforce. Providers: Shaw Trust and United Response.



Zero hours:

People who work on zero hours contracts: 202 contracts currently.  Areas in which contracts are/have been used include: Assistant Chief Executive Directorate - Coroner Services, Registrars Of Births, Deaths, Marriages, Children & Young People Directorate - Access & Assets (school catering), Children in Care Division, Learning & Achievement Division (home tutors), Environment & Regeneration Directorate - Public Protection Services, Operations (which covers cleaning, street services, golf club), Transportation Service, Neighbourhood & Community Services Directorate - Adult Social Care Provision, Community Engagement Team, Intermediate Care (residential care and home support), Sport & Physical Activity Engagement


Windsor and Maidenhead

Zero hours: The council says: "the borough does not have a policy regarding the employment of people on zero hours contracts. However, we do make use of casual staff to cover short term sickness, holiday periods or times of increased demand. Other than schools, all directorates use casuals to a greater or lesser extent, but in particular - leisure services, libraries, adult social care, electoral registration, safeguarding and specialist.

We have around 1000 people who are registered with us as casual workers."

Work programme:  44 people from July 2011-July 2012 and 53 from July 2012-July2013.

Working in: Customer Services, Business development, Grow our Own, Business & Community Partnerships, Adult day services, Libraries, Information management, Smarter working, ICT, Family Information Service, Ways into Work, Contracts & billing, Deputy Chief Executive office, Guildhall Museum, Windsor & Eton Town Centre Management, Planning support, Highways and Engineering, Human Resources."

Providers: A4E and Maximus.


More to be uploaded as responses come in, so check back.


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