Number on zero hours contracts increases

Woman working at a supermarket checkout


The number of people on zero hours contracts has significantly increased, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Their figures show that around 801,000 people are on a contract that guarantees no minimum hours (or ‘zero hours’ contract) in their main job – some 2.5% of the employed UK workforce, up from 2.3% in the same period of 2014.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “This latest figure is rather higher than the 697,000 people who said they were on these contracts in late 2014. Though at least some of this increase may be due to greater public recognition of the term ‘zero-hours contract’, there’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.”

The ONS says people on zero-hours contracts are more likely to be young, part time, women or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment. On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually worked 26 hours a week, says the ONS. Around one in three people on a zero-hours contract wanted more hours, with most wanting them in their current job as opposed to a different job which offered more hours. This compares to 10% of other people in employment who wanted more hours.

The TUC says, that though proponents of zero hours contracts praise their flexibility, it often errs too much on the side of the employer rather than the employee.

General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hour contracts may be a dream for cost-cutting employers. But they can be a nightmare for workers. Many people on zero-hours contracts are unable to plan for their future and regularly struggle with paying bills and having a decent family life.

“The so-called ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer is far too one-sided. Staff without guaranteed pay have much less power to stand up for their rights and often feel afraid to turn down shifts in case they fall out of favour with their boss.

“The European Union is proposing better rights for zero-hours workers – another reason why workers should be worried about the risks of Brexit.”

Research published by the TUC shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are just £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers and that two-fifths of zero-hours workers earn less than  the qualifying threshold for statutory payments, such as sick pay and maternity pay, compared to one in 12 permanent employees.

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