In a report released today at the conclusion of the TUC’s Young Workers’ Month, it was disclosed that 72 percent of young employees are excluded from key employment rights that typically activate after two years of continuous service.

Unlike their older counterparts, these workers often find themselves on the wrong side of workplace protections.

The report sheds light on the prevalence of zero-hours contracts among young employees, highlighting that 13 percent of those aged 16 to 24 are employed under such precarious conditions.

These contracts not only deny workers essential rights like flexible working requests and return-to-work guarantees after parental leave but also disproportionately affect women and ethnic minority workers.

Women in the 16 to 24 age group are particularly impacted, with one in six (16%) being employed on zero-hours contracts.

Also, young Black, minority, and ethnic workers are shockingly 12 times more likely to be on these contracts compared to their white counterparts aged 35 to 49.

Zero-hours contracts

The report underscores that despite constituting only 11 percent of the total workforce, 16 to 24-year-olds make up a staggering 40 percent of the 1.18 million workers on zero-hours contracts, totaling around half a million young workers (474,000).

Beyond precarious employment, the report also delves into the challenges young workers face in terms of unemployment and low pay.

With a significantly higher unemployment rate and lower median hourly pay compared to older workers, the struggles of the 16 to 24 age group in the job market are evident.

Even with recent government announcements to increase the National Living Wage, young workers continue to be paid less. The TUC acknowledges the positive step but argues that fair pay should be extended to all working people, irrespective of age.

In response to these concerning findings, the TUC endorses Labour’s New Deal for Working People, calling it “life-changing” for young workers. The proposed deal includes banning zero-hours contracts, granting day-one rights to all workers, eliminating age-based minimum wage distinctions, and strengthening workers’ overall rights through various measures.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak emphasised the importance of these changes, stating, “Every worker should be protected from being sacked for no reason – but three in four young workers can be fired at will by bad bosses. Too many young workers are trapped in insecure work, on lower pay, and without the workplace rights most of us take for granted. That’s not right.” Nowak highlighted the transformative potential of Labour’s New Deal, offering young workers a chance at a more secure and prosperous future.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.