TWO former health ministers have called on Humza Yousaf to ban zero-hours contracts in the social care sector.

The SNP’s Alex Neil and Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm co-signed a letter from campaign group Zero Hours Justice calling for an end to this type of “insecure and low-paid work”.

They say the Scottish Government’s plans for a wide-ranging overhaul of the sector in the National Care Service Bill should be used as an opportunity to end zero-hours contracts in which employers do not have to give minimum working hours.

The campaign group says about 74,000 people in Scotland are in this type of employment with 20% of those being in the health and social care sector.

Neil, who was health secretary between 2012 and 2014, said: “The health and social care sector is in the midst of a major recruitment crisis.

“Social care shortages are leaving patients stuck in hospital taking up much-needed hospital beds at a cost of £4000 a week when they should be recovering at home with social care support.

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“Zero-hours contracts are a barrier to people working in the care system and should be banned.

“The Cabinet Secretary must end the use of these pernicious contracts in the social care system.”

Chisholm, who was health minister between 2001 and 2004, said: “Social care staff work under huge pressure, providing vital public services.

“They performed heroically during the Covid pandemic to keep us safe and well.

“They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect with a secure contract, fair pay and decent working conditions.

“The Cabinet Secretary has the opportunity to end the use of these contracts once and for all.”

Social care minister Kevin Stewart said work is under way to end the misuse of zero-hours contracts.

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He said: “The Scottish Government firmly opposes the inappropriate use of zero-hour contracts and other non-standard types of employment that offer workers minimal job or financial security.

“Companies bidding to win a Scottish Government contract are evaluated on their fair working practices, where it is relevant and proportionate to do so.

“This includes the inappropriate use of zero-hours contracts and this will be extended to the national care service.

“The Fair Work in Social Care group has developed a set of minimum terms and conditions, including investigating ways to end the misuse of zero hours contracts within the social care sector, and work to deliver these standards with key stakeholders has begun.”