The Exploitation of Young Workers

Posted on 26th May 2022

How young people are being exploited for their labour.

Many 16-25 year olds are finding themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of zero-hour contracts as they desperately seek paid employment within the workforce.  The nature of these contracts are once again becoming a normality for young people in the UK, with concerns growing over the impact they are having on mental health and well-being. Despite their age, young people are deemed as and expected to be adults. This subsequently sees them working outrageous hours for very little pay, just to be able to pay bills and afford basic necessities.

Zero-hour contracts effectively offer little to no stability. Instead, they only create financial and social insecurity for employees who are not contractually obliged to set hours, this can put pressure on making people work at short notice.  The problems young people are currently experiencing because of this is having a significant, detrimental effect on their psychological and mental wellbeing; causing anxiety, stress and depression for the majority being taken on.

These loophole fuelled contracts expect and demand long hours which place a heavy toll on young people, leaving them exhausted and burnt out, both physically and mentally. Not only do these schemes have a negative impact on mood, they also can have a direct impact on work productivity. This essentially exposes employees to the possibility of being fired as a result of underperforming.  The ability to turn down shifts, even in addition to the workers already draining schedule is unfortunately not often a choice. Employers' ability to turn a blind eye to the importance of having time to recuperate can obviously have a damaging effect on a person's mental health. 

Ultimately, zero-hour contracts are exploiting young people, making them feel deeply vulnerable within working environments. No guarantee of shifts means no guarantee of consistent pay. 

Many of the young people that services like us here at The Beehive Project support struggle with mental health issues such as hypersensitivity and social anxiety. These factors can sadly make preparing themselves for a working environment far more harmful than that of the general population. Sporadic and gruelling hours and disproportionate pay are a quintessential part of ‘casual contracts’, this uncertainty can leave individuals like our support users feeling exploited and taken advantage of, which is sadly often a normality they have previously felt in their lives before receiving support from our services.

All employees, no matter what job, industry or sector they’re in, should be valued for their efforts in the workplace. This should unquestionably be reflected in their pay, but equally be reflected in the treatment they receive from their employers. Not only should this be standard practice on a moral level, but it should be recognised and enforced that being in a positive working environment is mutually beneficial for both the employer and the employee. Steering clear of hostile working environments and treating employees fairly incentiviseses workers and promotes productivity. Acknowledging that employees need work as much as employers need workers should undeniably be a normality within the labour force.



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