How to manage your money on a zero-hours contract

IF YOU'RE on a zero-hours contract, are temping, or have a job where you don't always work the same hours each week, you'll know how difficult it can be to manage your money.

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New research from Debt Advisory Centre shows that one in four people in Yorkshire have a job that means they don’t always earn the same from week to week.

A zero-hours contract job is one where you don’t actually have any contracted hours at all. This means that, in theory, employers can put you in for 40 hours work one week and then give you no work at all the next.

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This flexibility might suit some – if you’re a student and you don’t rely on always earning the same amount, for example. But if you’ve got a family and you’re managing the household purse strings, it can be difficult to budget when you don’t know how much money you’ve got coming in.

It used to be the case that if you had a job, you’d always know how much guaranteed work you’d have a week. Whether you were part-time or full-time, you’d have a set number of hours to work and even if you’d hope for more shifts or overtime on top of this, at least you’d always earn the base amount so you could cover your bills.

But zero-hours contracts are now a reality for a lot of workers. Office for National Statistics (ONS) data from March this year showed that there are now over 800,000 workers on zero-hours contracts – that’s 2.5% of the whole UK workforce.

Many people with variable earnings are struggling to make ends meet, and this is often down to their unreliable working hours. Debt Advisory Centre’s research supports this – of those on zero-hours contracts or other flexible working arrangements in Yorkshire, two in five said they’d found it hard to keep up-to-date with important bills, such as utilities, because their income varies week to week.

If this sounds like you, there are a few ways you make sure you stay on top of your household budget. Look at how much your bills and other essential spending costs you every month – that includes your rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax, food and any childcare. Whenever you have a good week – where you earn more than the total cost of your expenses – put the extra money to one side. That way, when you have a lean week and you don’t get many shifts, you’ll still be able to cover the basics.

Make sure you check if you can get any benefits too. If you work an average of less than 16 hours a week, you could get Jobseekers’ Allowance. And if you’re having a week where money’s really tight, claiming this extra money could be what you need to stay in control.

Debt Advisory Centre: 0161 871 4881