The stress of zero hour contracts

A zero-hour contract means employer is not obliged to provide a minimum nor consistent number of working hours to its employees. It’s the type of employment that often favours the employer, as they only pay staff as and when they need them, nor do they have to pay additional obligatory benefits, such as pension contributions, or holiday and sick pay. A lean workforce is maintained, flexibility ensued, and a business can be quick to respond to seasonal fluctuations or otherwise.

As an autistic person, I struggle with stress and anxiety, and this is quickly exacerbated by any type of uncertainty and change. I have great organisational skills and can easily compartmentalise my day, week, month into neat lists and boxes, and enjoy doing this. It gives me a sense of routine, which in turn provides me with great consistency and joy. I thrive in this environment and experience better health and wellbeing overall.

We’re now at a stage where neurodiversity is viewed as a difference in neurology and seen as a unique form of human diversity. This has more recently been translated into recognising the many strengths in neurodiversity – and celebrating these.

But every time I’ve had a zero-hour contract (I’ve had a few), I’ve been consumed and affected with unrest, and higher than my usual levels of anxiety

In one instance: the uncertainty of not knowing what my hours will be, when I will receive a new client, the lag time between a new client being announced to actually working with them, the contract with the client falling through, the client not showing up, or them going away on holiday – all these factors are hugely stressful and a lot to consider. And not only does it affect my routine, but my cashflow situation. I’m unable to plan my income, and as a result end up taking up more ad-hoc pieces of work, to ensure I have more money – in case I end up with less.

There’s a constant battle of balance and worry, and it’s tricky to be able to rely on such unpredictable income when you know you have your regular outgoings that have to be met

There are different types of scenarios where a zero-hour contract may be used, but ultimately you work when your employer needs you to, which can mean working different hours each da