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Exclusive: Twice as many female staff at Sheffield University are on zero-hours contracts than men

A transparency request submitted by Now Then has found gender disparities in the number of staff employed by the University on the controversial flexible contracts.

The Arts Tower at the University of Sheffield.

The University of Sheffield employ 1,873 staff on zero-hours contracts.

Daniel Smyth on Unsplash.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Now Then has found that twice as many female staff at the University of Sheffield are employed on zero-hour contracts than male staff.

Of the 1,873 staff currently employed by the University on zero-hours contracts, 1,244 are women. This is almost twice the number of men employed on zero-hours contracts (629), even though the University's total workforce has only 15% more women than men.

Under zero-hours contracts, employers don't have to guarantee any number of minimum working hours per week. Labour recently said they would ban the practice if they get into government.

We asked the University of Sheffield to explain the gender difference, but they declined to answer the question.

Instead, a spokesperson said that the University is "committed to ensuring that all members of its workforce are engaged on the most appropriate contract in a transparent and fair way."

“We value the integral support provided by those colleagues we engage on a more casual basis to enable the University to respond to changing demands and peaks in workloads."

Many trade unions have called for an end to zero-hours contracts, which the TUC say make it "impossible for a large section of the workforce to plan or save for the future."

The most recent data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that in April to June this year 917,000 workers were employed on zero-hours contracts – 2.8% of the total workforce.

David white Sx Gm0y40 BWM unsplash

Of 4,689 staff at Sheffield Hallam University, 866 are on zero-hours contracts.

David White on Unsplash.

The University and College Union (UCU) oppose zero-hours contracts in further and higher education, arguing that "casualisation is bad for staff and bad for education, yet it's endemic in our colleges and universities."

According to the union, 46% of universities and 60% of colleges use zero-hours contracts to deliver teaching.

We also submitted the same Freedom of Information request to Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), but found no significant gender disparity in their use of casual employment contracts.

Of the 4,689 total staff at SHU, 866 are on zero-hours contracts, with the vast majority of these being Associate Lecturers.

“Zero-hours contracts and other forms of casualisation are the scourge of workers around the country,” Bob Jeffrey President of Sheffield Trades Union Council, told Now Then.

“Given the inherently unregulated nature of precarious contracts, it is wholly unsurprising that they reflect wider discriminatory practices in the labour market, whether according to gender, race, sexuality or disability.”

“The employers may say that workers value flexibility, but if there was any truth to that they would offer them the option of a permanent contract or staying on zero-hours.”

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