Research highlights the problem of hours insecurity amongst the workforce, with two in five full or part-time employees being told their working patterns less than a week in advance.  

New surveys by the Living Wage Foundation, an organisation which campaigns for employers to provide staff with a Real Living Wage, has revealed the problems surrounding hours insecurity.

Across the workforce, just under two in five UK workers (37 per cent) in full or part-time employment are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts or work patterns.

This number rises for employees whose job involves variable hours or shift work. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) reported having under a week’s notice whilst 12 per cent were given under 24 hours before being expected to take on a shift.

It was the capital, London, which was worst afflicted by this. Close to half of workers (48 per cent) received less than a week’s notice of work schedules.

As commonly found during the pandemic, full-time, low paid workers were most impacted by the failure to provide certainty around working hours.

Workers from BAME backgrounds were disproportionately affected, with over two-thirds (68 per cent) being told less than a week in advance about working patterns. Working parents with children were similarly impacted (64 per cent).

Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, insisted that this forced workers to make “impossible choices on childcare, transport and other important aspects of family life” during the pandemic.

Employees who earnt under the Real Living Wage, currently set at £10.85 in London and £9.50 in the rest of the UK, were particularly vulnerable to extremely short term notice. Over one in seven workers (15 per cent) were given less than 24 hours notice before shift-work began.

As such, the Living Wage Foundation has encouraged employers to commit to the Living Hours Programme. This requires employers to  pay both a real Living Wage and commit to providing at least 4 weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period.

In addition to this, it also gives workers a guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise), and a contract that accurately reflects hours worked.

Laura Gardiner, Director, Living Wage Foundation, said:

Low-paid workers have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with millions struggling to plan their lives due to the double whammy of changing restrictions on economic activity and insufficient notice of work schedules from employers.

Despite this, and the challenges many employers have faced, some have stepped up during this crisis and committed to provide workers with secure, guaranteed hours and notice of shift patterns. These are the businesses that will help us rebuild and recover, and we encourage more employers to follow their example.

*To obtain this research, Survation, commissioned by the Living Wage Foundation, carried out two surveys.  The first polled 2,128 adults working full-time and earning less than the Living Wage and was carried out between 03-14 December 2020. The second survey polled 2,232 UK adults between 25 March-10 April 2021.






Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.