One sixth of UK workers – around 5.1 million people – are in insecure, low-paid work, according to new research. The news comes as the Living Wage Foundation launches a major new initiative – “Living Hours” – to tackle widespread insecurity over hours and provide workers with real control over their lives.

The campaign group’s Living Hours programme calls on organisations to pay a real living wage – currently £10.55 per hour inside London and £9 outside – provide workers with at least four weeks’ notice of shifts, a contract that accurately reflects hours worked, and a guaranteed minimum of 16 hours a week.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said that pay is not the only driver in-work poverty: “A lack of secure, stable hours is leaving millions of families struggling to keep their heads above water. This isn’t good for workers or businesses. Constant uncertainty over the number of hours, timings of your shifts or the amount of pay you’ll get each week places people under enormous pressure. A shift cancelled at the last minute might sound small, but it can be the difference between being able to pay for your family’s dinner that night or going hungry. And being expected to work at short notice means you can’t plan around other costs and commitments.

“We’ve consulted with hundreds of workers, employers and trade unions in drawing up these measures to ensure they are ambitious but achievable. We believe Living Hours will provide an important new measure to fight in-work poverty and to provide workers and their families with stability and security.”

Wales, the North East and the West Midlands have the highest rates of low paid, insecure work, with Scotland, the South East and London the lowest. Over a fifth (21%) of the working population in Wales experiences low paid, insecure work, and 18% in the North East, compared to 15% in London and 13% in Scotland.

Employers including Richer Sounds, SSE and Standard Life Aberdeen have already committed to sign up to the scheme.