I am a nursery worker and I am in poverty. This is my story…
I have worked at three different nurseries on zero-hours contracts. The first started in 2010. It started as a supply contract but was turned into a zero-hours one. My next one lasted two to two and a half years. Then the third one started this year. With this last one, I have also had a real carry on with my wages not being paid on time, and I have had to involve Unison and Acas.
I usually hear on the Friday or Saturday what my hours will be for the following week. My experience of zero-hours contracts is that you are just up and down all the time. You are always juggling things. Since I have been at this nursery it has been stressful – much more so than at the others. At least I knew I would be paid on time before. I have had support from a local organisation here but I went to the foodbank last Friday morning and it is not a great experience. The people at the church were lovely, and it felt very comfortable and we had a chat and a cuppa but the situation where there are people on benefits, or being sanctioned, or working yet having to access foodbanks is disgusting. We are supposed to be one of the richest countries in the world.
I think zero-hours contracts should be banned. It is not giving people the stability to be able to contribute to the economy, because you cannot say ‘I am going to buy this, or do this’. Everybody I talk to says they should be banned.
People who have not experienced it do not know what it is like. Where I work, I don’t know if the managers are in the same position, but everybody else is on zero hours and a lot of nurseries are the same, because the numbers of children go up and down and that affects the rota.
I am on the minimum wage. I run an old car, and if that conks out that’s it. I am single, I own the property I am in and don’t have any dependents, so ideally I need 30 hours a week, minimum. Then I could get Working Tax Credits, but I cannot get that.
In term time, I would say I usually average about 20 hours a week. In school holidays, it can be 15 or less than that. When I was at my previous nursery, it went down and I was on Jobseekers’ Allowance for a couple of months, but then one week I went over 16 hours of work and had to sign off. It’s really diabolical the way people are treated.
The Government say you can do more than one zero-hours contract but it’s not possible unless you are working at weekends for one of them, or in the evenings, as shifts clash. And it’s hard to find things on a weekend, especially locally.
When I left school, I did training schemes in clerical work and I have done a bit of shop work. Then I did a course in childcare around 2001. From that, I did another course and got a placement and after 11 weeks, they offered me a job at 30 hours a week. I was there seven years, but then I was made redundant. When I was made redundant, I put my house on the market and downsized so I have been in my flat since 2010, and that’s when the zero-hours rollercoaster began. I have not had a permanent job in seven years, just zero-hours contracts. I am in in-work poverty, definitely.
What I would like to see is a law that if you have been somewhere for six months, then they have to offer you contracted hours or get rid of you. People should be valued and they should be forced to offer you contracted hours.
Another thing that should be simple to do is, if you are in employment or on benefit of, say, £150 a week then that should be topped up by the Government to £200. Everybody would then be on at least £200 a week. It could be done by the Government to a set amount, so everyone is getting a certain amount so they can contribute to the economy. It would get the economy moving, because at the moment it is not moving upwards, not for us.
I believe in the proper living wage that people are fighting for. People have not got the income to buy things or do things. The country has to change tack, otherwise there are going to be more people in debt and with mental health issues and not being cared for.
- Anne is a pseudonym, used to protect the contributor’s identity.