The Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), which represents teachers as well as academics, has warned that the controversial employment terms could leave members open to sex discrimination, bullying and fewer employment rights.
In June, the University and College Union annual congress heard that the uncertainty and lack of work associated with the contracts may have forced some academics to rifle through bins for food.
The UCU later vowed to find out exactly how common zero-hours contracts are in higher education and now the EIS has followed suit north of the border by issuing a freedom of information request to all universities and colleges in Scotland.
Larry Flanagan, the EIS’s general secretary, said: “There is wide concern generally over the growth of zero-hours contracts, and the trade union movement will continue to challenge any employers utilising [them] to justify their decision to employ staff on this type of contract.”
In a statement, the union voiced concerns that those on the contracts could lose out on employment rights such as occupational sick pay, pensions and access to training courses.
Sex discrimination and bullying were also cited as concerns for EIS members on zero-hours contracts.
“The EIS is now gathering information on how widely zero-hours contracts are used within the further and higher education sectors, in order to highlight the impact on staff,” Mr Flanagan said.
“Any college or university in Scotland employing staff on zero-hours contracts can expect close scrutiny and difficult questions in the months ahead.”
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said: “Ucea is well aware of the trade unions’ interest in understanding the types of flexible employment used by the sector to meet the changing demands on HE institutions, and has offered joint work to develop a better understanding of practice and trends in relation to all types of flexible employment in HE, acknowledging the unions’ particular concerns about ‘zero hours’ contracts.
“UCEA’s members have stressed that they use casual contracts in circumstances where the demand for work of a particular kind is variable or unpredictable, such as visiting specialist lecturers, or student employment of various kinds such as ambassadorial roles or assisting in special events.”