Limiting Choices: Why people risk insecure work

Posted on

A woman in a red shirt with dark hair sits in a warehouse with tall rows of boxes behind her. She has one hand to her face and is holding her hard hat with the other while looking away.

As the UK continues to face the biggest squeeze on living standards in decades, having access to a secure and well-paid job has never been more important. Published in partnership with UNISON, this report sheds light on the choices and experiences of those in insecure work, and the kinds of interventions that could support them into better paid, more secure jobs in the future.

For many people, insecure work is not a free choice

Many of those in insecure work find themselves having to trade security for flexibility to balance work around other factors in their lives, such as caring responsibilities or health issues. This leaves them vulnerable to economic shocks, as well as potential negative impacts on their wellbeing and future career prospects.

Four in ten (44%) insecure workers earning less than £18,000 per year said they were in their current job due to limitations, such as the availability of jobs in their area, poor transport infrastructure or a lack of available childcare.

Those in insecure work are at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis

Insecure workers are more likely to report that they are struggling financially than those in secure jobs. Over 52% of those in insecure work earn less than Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard of £25,500, and more than one in four insecure workers (28%) indicated that they are finding it ‘quite’ or ‘very difficult’ to get by. This applied to just over one in five people in secure roles (22%).

Being in insecure work can impact health and wellbeing

For some, access to flexible employment is crucial to managing a health condition, but for too many in insecure work, flexibility is one-sided and can impact workers' wellbeing. Insecure workers were twice as likely as secure workers to experience job related stress 4-6 days a week (26% compared with 13%). In particular, uncertainty over earnings can be a significant driver of stress and anxiety.

The Work Foundation’s new report sets out policy recommendations that seek to improve workers’ access to secure work, as well as improve the quality of insecure roles. We propose the UK Government should:

  • Open up flexible working to all workers from day one on the job
  • Enhance the predictability of working arrangements
  • Expand access to Statutory Sick Pay and disability leave.

Read the full report here

Related Reports

Back to report listing