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Jobseekers will risk being stripped of their benefits if they refuse zero-hours contracts with no good reason, the government has said.

The new universal credit system makes it compulsory to take any casual contracts, even if they do not always guarantee work.

Those jobseekers who turn down such contracts will  lose their benefits for more than three months.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said:

“As now, if there’s a good reason someone can’t just take a particular job they won’t be sanctioned.

“But it is right that people do everything they can to find work and that we support them to build up their working hours and earnings.”

He also pointed out that universal credit payments would adjust depending on the hours of work received to ensure that workers were always fully supported.

Opponents to the change are concerned that the new rules could be damaging to jobseekers’ careers.

Labour MP Sheila Gilmore told The Guardian:

“[I] fear that if people are required to take jobs with zero-hours contracts, they could be prevented from taking training courses or applying for other jobs that might lead to more stable and sustainable employment in the long term.”

Unions called for action against zero-hours contracts last week after a new study found that 1.4 million contracts did not guarantee any hours of work.

Photo by Department for Work and Pensions