The Government fails to act on the ‘zero zero economy’



A number of local people have come to me raising concerns about the way in which Jobseeker’s Plus has been issuing sanctions for those claiming out of work benefits.

The Government introduced these sanctions in 2010. The aim is to make people claiming Jobseeker’s ‘see the consequences of their actions’. Sanctions can last for 4, 13, 26 weeks – and even up to three years and are issued if people miss interviews, fail to ‘actively seek work’ or refuse employment.

 But there are serious concerns that sanctions are being issued for people that are accepting jobs – but jobs which are on zero hours contracts. The amount of people currently on zero hour contracts is an astonishing 1.4 million today. This number has skyrocketed under the Conservative-led Government – in 2010 the amount of people on zero hour contracts was at 189,000.

 The Department for Work and Pensions continue to repeat that “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies, and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”

 But evidence suggests this is not the case. It seems completely unfair that people who are looking for work and just trying to gain experience are being punished by the Jobcentre for accepting these contracts. The reality is that under David Cameron jobs are becoming less and less secure. Zero hours contracts are now often the only option for many people seeking work.

Tory Ministers themselves appear confused – in previous statements they have said that “if a claimant turns down a particular vacancy (including zero-hours contract jobs) a sanction may be applied, but we will look into the circumstances of the case and consider whether they had a good reason.”

What’s going on? Sadly we are in the dark. As I’ve found out from parliamentary questions, Ministers aren’t even bothering to check whether there is a link between zero hours contracts, or part time work, and people’s entitlement to jobseekers allowance.

This confusion and uncertainty is just not good enough. The Conservative-led Government introduced these sanctions. They are responsible for monitoring how they are being implemented in practice.

Recent Posts

Richard Burden

Avatar photo

I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Get in touch

You can reach me by email at or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.