Capitalism in the 21st Century #3 Zero Hours Contracts

At this point I’ve now had two of my proposals rejected by my tutor and I only have 10 days in which to submit my completed body of work and 3,000-word dissertation. TATA Steel and Tesco have both been declined, where to next? What encapsulates current corporate policy? What best describes the exploitation of the worker? Zero Hours Contracts!

I was aware of a near neighbour, who is on a Zero Hours Contract and contacted her to enquire if she would be willing to talk about her experiences of this type of working arrangement. I’ll call her ‘Bethan’ to maintain her anonymity.

Bethan was very eager to talk about her situation and open-up her house and feelings to describe her way of life, struggling to survive, not knowing when she would next been given an opportunity to earn an income and if she’d be able to pay her bills.


I have included extracts from my original dissertation submission (2017):


Bethan appears to have had a very tough life; she works in social care on a Zero Hours Contract and with incredibly short notice she is expected to drive (at her cost) to any location, which may be up to 2 hours away. The people she cares for could be of any age and medical or emotional condition. The stresses of her job, not knowing when she will next work and therefore her ability to pay bills, combined with coping with the many suicide attempts of her son and the descending chaos on her home finally culminated in a break-down and heart attack two years ago. Bethan has recovered from her heart attack – but nothing is changed, she is still vulnerable. The real saviours in Bethan’s life are her two rescue Greyhounds.

Bethan is now 60 years old and has always worked hard to make a living for her ‘extended’ family and sees further education as a means to keep her “current and employable”.

It is clear from the condition of her home that Bethan struggles to maintain her environment. There are several half-finished, or barely commenced, DIY projects around the house; electric cables have been left bare, ‘filler’ has been used to plug holes in walls but left unfinished. The house is not just dirty, it is filthy, and the grime has been building up over years, she seems to lack the personal willpower to take pride in her home, knowing full-well that the house is in a mess, yet she is not embarrassed by the state of her home; is this a cry for help?

Bethan’s life is full of disharmony and disruption, even the field around her house has been turned into a building site. She is attempting to take control of her surroundings and improve her home by stripping and redecorating one of the bedrooms, but this work is currently unfinished. In the midst of the grime and chaos can be seen a calmer side of Bethan; above her desk is an original watercolour of a house where she once lived. On the opposite wall hangs a decorative emblem. When asked what her luxuries are, she responded by saying her “hot water siphon” and “worktop cooker”, to Bethan, both represent economy in the house, the hot water siphon only heats up a cup of water, not a whole kettle and the mini worktop cooker is far more efficient than her large floor-standing oven.

Bethan’s vulnerability and uncertainty of life makes her an ideal candidate for Zero Hours Contracts.

Although Bethan’s home appears to be dirty, untidy and lacking in basic maintenance, she is the most open and welcoming person and very happy to have her home and life photographed, and always has a welcoming cup of tea.


At the time of my original assignment, both of Bethan’s sons had moved away from home; one living in Australia, the other also on a Zero Hours Contract. Bethan has achieved a BA and is currently studying for a Masters reading Equity and Diversity.

I managed to submit my dissertation on time and actually received a good mark.

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