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Work Zero - Employers Warm to Contracts Diet

27 February 2015 | Updated 01 January 1970

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published figures showing that employers have been using more people on zero hour contracts. In its findings, it showed that:

The number of people employed on a zero hours contract in their main job was 697,000 for October to December 2014, representing 2.3% of all people in employment. In the same period in 2013, this was 1.9% of all people in employment (586,000).

The number of people saying they are employed on zero hours contracts depends on whether or not they recognise this term. The ONS believes it is not possible to say how much of the increase between 2013 and 2014 is due to greater recognition rather than new contracts.

The number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours where work was carried out was 1.8 million for the fortnight beginning 11 August 2014. The previously published estimate was 1.4 million for the fortnight beginning 20 January 2014.

On average, someone on a zero hours contract usually works 25 hours a week.

Around a third of people on them want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, compared with 10% of other people in employment.

People on these contracts are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time. They are also more likely to be aged under 25 or 65 and over.

The findings brought immediate criticism from trade unions and political parties. The Trades Union Congress condemned the increase in those on zero hours contracts. "Zero hours contracts sum up what has gone wrong in the modern workplace,” complained Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC. “They shift almost all power from the worker and give it to their boss."

Not surprisingly, business groups have defended the use of this use, focusing instead on the flexibility it can give workers and employers. “For hundreds of thousands of workers and employers these contracts represent an extremely attractive proposition,” stated Neil Carberry, Director for employment and skills, CBI. “Despite efforts to portray all those on such contacts as exploited, the truth is that there are plenty of engineers, contractors and professionals whose willingness to be flexible adds significantly to their market value and, therefore, their earning power.

Picture: Yes or no to Zero Hours?

Article written by Mike Gannon | Published 27 February 2015


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