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To be worried about starting this zero hours job as a single parent?

(50 Posts)
bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 08:59:17

Hi, I'm not sure if this a good place to post this, but I wanted to get a feel of what others thought/would do in this situation.
A little bit about me. Last year my ex I split up and because he would not leave the house i had to move into a rented house with 4 of our 6 dc's, the 2 older ones chose to live with him, which breaks my heart. The split was mutually agreed, he even put down a deposit on the house I am renting. ex said he would support us, so i felt confident about moving. He is self employed.
Soon after I moved out he said he had no money and could not provide any support.
I had to go cap in hand to the state and have been on JSA/housing/. child tax credits since last June. My dear parents are helping out with the rent.
I stopped working in 1998 to raise our family. We have 6 children aged 5-14. At the time ex was solvent and each child was planned , there was money.
Before children I was a primary school teacher.
I have been trying to find work in schools since last June. I need it to be part time/school hours because I am on my own with the 4 younger ones. I am volunteering in schools and have done some supply to try and get up to date and help my cv. I have applied for a few jobs but no luck.
There are barely any new positions coming up, I mean about 2 a month.
I am feeling desperate and depressed ( that's another story). There is no work.

Last week a friend mentioned that the company she works for ( a college catering company, she is a dinner lady and so would I be) were needing to find someone asap. It all looked positive, work within schools hours, just down the road. BUT and here's the big but, it's a ZERO hours contract.
I would be working different hours each week and would not be paid in the holidays. No hours are guaranteed although they say there would always be at least 16. It would be difficult to deal with the housing people as i wouldn't be able to tell them how much i was going to be paid each week ( minimum wage, but hours would vary) and in the holidays i wouldn't be getting anything at all.
I have tentatively said I would start tomorrow, but this weekend i have been having serious, I mean serious panic attacks. I am so worried I will be doing the wrong thing. I am going to the dr's next week to ask about taking medication as I am no longer functioning, eating or sleeping.
I feel like I want to throw up all throw time and keep bursting into tears.
I feel so useless.
Thank you for reading. I know I might get a flaming here, but i also wanted to garner some opinion.

insancerre Sun 03-Mar-13 09:02:57

Sorry you are going through such a hard time.
I have no real words of wisdom to offer except to say that zero hours contracts are exploitative and should be banned.

Kytti Sun 03-Mar-13 09:03:23

I'm not sure it would help your anxiety levels to deal with variable work hours when you have to declare everything to the government. Perhaps you should ask for some definite hours or keep looking?

Sorry, don't feel too helpful there, but ...

RedHelenB Sun 03-Mar-13 09:05:22

Give it a go. If you get the 16 hours than you get WTC plus it may help with your panic attacks. Worse case scenario is it doesn't work out & then you are back to square one.

Wishiwasanheiress Sun 03-Mar-13 09:09:04

Why would I flame you? You are asking reasonable questions and want a bit of help. Tbh this might not be the best place, but u will get lots of responses I'm sure.

Childcare sounds a nightmare to plan although I think you say they are all at school? For housing association has the employers put in writing that it will be 16hrs minimum? I'd ask for that so you have something to show them if required. Plan your life around 16hrs I suppose and be pleased if a few more come along.

Which worries you more? The hours or actually the work or starting a new role? Be honest, to urself at least!

Good luck, search for something else as you go. Being in a role always helps.

nosleeps Sun 03-Mar-13 09:12:07

No flaming, but just be very, very careful as that gives you zero job security and you might have difficulties arranging interviews round it.

Euphemia Sun 03-Mar-13 09:13:00

Give it a go for a couple of weeks - you never know, the hours might settle into something more regular than you expect.

Which area of the country are you in? I was on supply for three years before I started to get regular work, then in January I finally got a permanent contract. My impression is that more work has become available this year, but it depends on the area.

Can you stay on the supply list in case something more long-term comes up?

Bossybritches22 Sun 03-Mar-13 09:17:06

Not sure on the legalities, but I think they HAVE to specify a minimum hours offer in a contract,so that at least you can get your 16 hrs documented.

Someone with more knowledge will be along shortly I'm sure, good luck!

sneezingwakesthebaby Sun 03-Mar-13 09:23:14

I would say don't dont don't do it! They say 16 hours are guaranteed but it might not happen. We had an awful time of it when dd had just been born and exP was on a zero hour contract because it went up and down and up and down. Sometimes it would go a stretch of not qualifying us for WTC anymore when averaged out so we had the worry about getting an overpayment of that versus the worry of actually being able to eat and pay the bills. We were on edge every week waiting to find out his hours and the crying and anger when he didn't get the hours he had been promised and promised by the manager I will not forget. Without my dad lending us money we wouldn't have coped.

You already sound so anxious that I think a zero hour contract could really make it worse. Plus once you sign this contract, you won't be able to quit and get JSA because you would technically be leaving a job. Hold on a bit longer til a job with guaranteed hours comes up!

bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 09:23:23

Thank you all so far!
kytti you are right this uncertainty won't help my anxiety, what i need is stability!

wishiwasanheiress both I think! I know starting work after so long is difficult. But I think if they were to say " these are you hours, this is your contract, this is how much you will be earning' I would feel happier. Even if earning next to nothing. I could still keep looking for better work.but being zero hours, what happens if they ask me to work for longer than I want? Am i obliged to work hen they ask.
There was no contact, no money discussed, no 'what hours will you work', nothing. I told them I was happy if they could give me 16 because of WTc and they kept saying "we can give you at least that" What happens if I have to take time off? I'll loose money won't I?
My housing will be reduced because I am 'earning' but in the holidays i won't be earning and would need to keep filling out new housing forms, which is in itself a nightmare.
You see if I take this then decide it's not for me I won't be able to go back on the dole for a while because I will have voluntarily left employment

mankyscotslass Sun 03-Mar-13 09:25:04

No, if your contract says zero hours they don't need to give you anymore than that.

Lots of places only offer zero hours now, the other problem to them being that you still have to be available to work for them when they want you to.

I am looking for a job with more hours just now to help with finances - I got offered a job I thought was 20 hours a week, but the contract said zero hours, and when I queried it I was told that some weeks I might get 20 hours, but others not even as much as 4, and historically the company had not given any hours at all some weeks depending on workload (variable demand).

I need to be able to plan and pay for childcare well in advance, and zero hours contracts make that impossible.

bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 09:26:54

I woke up umpteen times last night in a paralysed hot sweat over this. I felt like I was dying(panic attack, I guess).
I want to sign onto a supply agency, they will give holiday pay, but then how does that affect my WTC and housing.
I just want a regular income, with certain hours.

insancerre Sun 03-Mar-13 09:27:55

DS signed back on the dole when he wasn't being given any hours on his zero hours contract in a local pub kitchen.
I have been in the position where i had a temporary contract and didn't have set hours. One wek it could be 40 hours and the next it could be only 8.I only did it for a few weeks but it was hell. I certainly wouldn't reccommend it to anyone who is suffering from anxiety. it didn't do my menatal health any good.

bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 09:29:27

of course manky then I'm stuffed aren't I? I have no earnings but still would have reduced housing because i am supposedly earning......
WTC credits give you a month of not working 16 hours before they stop.

CabbageLeaves Sun 03-Mar-13 09:30:56

There is another thread on MN with a woman saying how the family has got into a trap with zero hrs contract. Can't leave the job because wont get benefits for leaving voluntarily, can't get any top ups because not working enough hours, can't earn enough because despite their promises they are not giving enough hours... Very stressful. In your situation I'd think twice sounds like a big gamble.

bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 09:32:59

Thank you for helping me this morning. This is the first time i have felt reasonably calm since friday and my heart hasn't been trying to bang its way out of my chest. Someone with depression and anxiety issues should not be doing that kind of work.When I am volunteering/supply teaching I feel useful and valued, you know?

messybedhead Sun 03-Mar-13 09:34:42

If I were you I would not take the contract.

I have been in your position, desperate to work to come off benefits. I know how hard it is to want to do the right thing and go to work.

You will not be better off financially or mentally. The hours not being regular will probably cause problems with tax credits and hb.

Don't take the job. It doesn't make you someone who chooses to stay on benefits, or a scrounger, or whatever some small minded people think.

It makes you somebody who is trying to do the best for their family. When you are on a low income, the most important thing is security and regularity of that income. This job will probably not help with that.

Funnily enough I did teacher training so that I could come off benefits and get a well paying job with holidays ( and also because I love teaching wink).

Is there anyway you could look for full time work and use a childminder. Tax credits would help towards the cost of this. But that's something you'd have to be prepared to do and if your children are still young I can understand why you wouldn't.

This is a temporary situation in your life and in a few years when they are older you can go back to working full time. I know it's hard to see the bigger picture sometimes.

Good luck in whatever you decide to do. smile

ThePskettiIncident Sun 03-Mar-13 09:35:49

I wouldn't do it. You could end up in an awful mess with tax credits owing them money if you're short on hours.

Zero hours contracts are so wrong and unfair. How they expect anyone to plan their lives with no guaranteed wage, yet a guaranteed work commitment is beyond unreasonable.

Go back to them and ask for a 16 hour minimum contract and explain why. Maybe ask for a temp contract- three months, so they have some get out if the needs drop.

trixymalixy Sun 03-Mar-13 09:36:17

Zero hours contracts are apalling, they should not be allowed.

bigbuttons Sun 03-Mar-13 09:40:15

The woman 'interviewing' me said that from October all the staff will be put onto zero hours contracts, even those who have other fixed contracts. "they won't be happy about it, but they don't know about it yet" she said
Too right they won't be. I think I should forewarn my friend about this don't you?

DreamingOfTheMaldives Sun 03-Mar-13 09:40:34

I have nothing but contempt for employers who offer zero hour contracts. They are absolute bastards!

I wouldn't take the job in your position OP, it may well leave you up the creek without a paddle!

BaldricksTurnip Sun 03-Mar-13 09:40:44

Don't do it! Stability for you and your family is paramount. Keep looking and I'm sure something better will come along smile

Rockchick1984 Sun 03-Mar-13 09:41:25

Unfortunately Big having had a long time out of employment and in the current environment you will certainly have to compromise on what you would consider to be an ideal job.

You should possibly reconsider the term-time only working - between your holiday entitlement and your ex, you should be able to cover a lot of the holidays, and the rest you could claim around 70% of childcare costs back during school hols. Not perfect, but once you have been working for a while you will be more likely to get a job closer to your ideal.

Other than that something zero hours (or a low number of hours with a view to working more) is very likely. Personally I'd say to tell tax credits that you're doing 16 hours a week average, then you can change it with them once you're a bit more settled into the job and can see what's likely to happen with it.

If you find you are consistently working less than 16 hours you can sign on still.

Dont do it. Forget the crap about any job is a job.

Zero hours contracts are not a job. They are a way for companies to employ people without having to worry about sacking them.

You need to think of you and your kids. Wait for an actual contracted job with a payslip you can rely on.

BaldricksTurnip Sun 03-Mar-13 09:43:49

Just a thought, but is there any way you could think about working from home? If you're qualified as a teacher is there anything like external exam marking/moderating that you could do? You can be self employed and still claim Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

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