Experiences of homeless young people in precarious employment

Research for Centrepoint

Buzzeo J, Byford M, Martin A, Newton B |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Oct 2019

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The world of work is changing. The most common forms of employment – characterised by open-ended, full-time contracts – have steadily declined across Europe over the past 10 years. They have been replaced by historically atypical or non-standard employment relationships, including fixed-term contracts, part-time and on-call working, and temporary agency work. This shifting labour market context has numerous, interrelated causes that stem from changes in demography, technology, labour market regulation and most recently the 2008 financial crisis and global recession.

While standard employment relationships are still prevalent among the working population, concerns have been raised around the rights and income security of the rising numbers of atypical workers. In the UK, the core groups affected are those on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs), agency workers and the pseudo self-employed.

Issues affecting these workers include the presence of pay disparities compared to employees on standard employment contracts in the same company, and employment classifications leading to denial of basic entitlements such as the national minimum wage, union recognition and holiday pay (Berry-Lound et al, 2015; CIPD, 2013; Work and Pensions Committee, 2017). Further, under these types of employment relationship, individuals are not always guaranteed a minimum number of hours, leading to short or unstable working schedules (Rubery et al, 2016).

These issues are more acute for particular sections of the population. For instance, younger age groups make up a disproportionate share of this workforce. Individuals aged 16-24 represent a third of those working under ZHCs (ONS, 2018a). Agency and platform workers in the ‘gig’ economy (many of whom are classified as self-employed) are also significantly over-represented among younger groups: in both cases, close to half are aged under-35 (Taylor, 2018; Lepanjuuri et al, 2018). Further, the income volatility of non-standard employment can put those without financial wealth and savings at risk of social and economic instability. 

In this context, the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint commissioned the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to explore the experiences of young people in non-standard forms of employment among groups they support.