It can be hard enough trying to budget and plan for the future when you work 9-5, so how do you manage if you can’t be sure how many hours you’ll be working?

Citizens Advice says there are four and a half million people in what it calls ‘insecure work’ – without regular hours or predictable shifts.

More than 2.3m people are on variable shift patterns, 1.1m are on temporary contracts and a further 800,000 are on either zero hours or agency contracts.

A survey carried out on behalf of Citizens Advice found that people place a similar importance on a steady, reliable income (92%) as the level of take-home pay (93%) when looking for work.

The 2,067 British adults surveyed by ComRes in February said opportunities in terms of experience (84%), being passionate about the role (82%) and progression at work (74%) were lesser priorities.

Having a steady, reliable income is fundamental to how secure people feel

Gillian Guy, chief executive, Citizens Advice
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More than eight in 10 people (83%) say having a steady job with regular pay increases productivity while 86% believe it increases their loyalty towards employers.

Citizens Advice warned that the importance of a stable job and secure income is being overlooked because of a focus purely on income level.

The charity welcomed the introduction of the National Living Wage and the raising of the personal tax allowance threshold, but says more work is needed to improve job security.

Previous research carried out with staff and volunteers from across the Citizens Advice network found 83% of people with fluctuating work patterns seeking the charities’ help were struggling with debt.

87% faced delays or problems with in work benefits such as work tax credits and housing benefit.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Income security is the overlooked piece of the labour market puzzle.

“While for some people working shifts or temporary contracts may provide the flexibility they want, many others struggle to balance the books in the face of such insecure employment.

“Having a steady, reliable income is fundamental to how secure people feel and is key if the government wants to achieve its ambition of a high wage, low welfare economy.

“Offering people a secure income is also in the interest of employers, as it boosts staff morale and productivity.”