ONS Figures Show A Rise In Zero Hour Contracts

3rd September 2015

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures which shed light on the role of zero-hours contracts in the UK, demonstrating that there has been a 6% rise in there use over the last twelve months.

Digging into the data, we can see between April and June this year, 2.4% (or 744,000 employees) of employees in the UK between April and June, this is up 2% from 624,000 in the same period in 2014.

The report also demonstrates that a over a third of employees on zero hour contracts are dissatisfied with the number of hours they currently work, hoping for more, and many of those employees on a zero hour contract (as much as 5%) are actively looking for a new role to supplement her income and the research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, Laura Gardiner outlined the insecurity zero-hour contract employees can face.

Gardiner said: “We should remember that only a small minority of workers are on zero-hours contracts and overall job security has tended to rise slightly in recent decades. But for those affected – particularly in low-paying sectors such as hospitality where two in five businesses use zero-hours contracts – the danger is that job insecurity is becoming deeper. Policy makers must act to ensure that the benefits of labour market flexibility are balanced appropriately with protecting workers’ rights.”

Jon Ingham, Glassdoor’s career and workplace indicated that he believes the figures could be much higher saying: “The fact that many of those surveyed in the ONS study might not know what a zero-hours contract is could mean the scope of the problem is far greater than the figures indicate.

He went on to say: “Recent research from Glassdoor reveals that one in four unemployed adults has been offered one of these contracts and almost half have turned them down.”

There are a number of reasons why so any people turn down zero-hour contracts. Over half of those surveyed indicated that there was a need to receive a set level of income so they would be able to switch from receiving benefits to being employed. In addition to this reason many of reasons where raised including a lack of trust of employers offering zero hour contracts and the press coverage that has focussed on the negative impact of zero hour contracts.

Ingham said: “For most it’s because they have limited options. For some it might be beneficial to have the flexibility to fit around their lifestyle but for others it’s a substandard contract that offers little in the way of benefits or security.”

There is some evidence from the CIPD that workers are just as satisfied in zero hour contracts as those employed in specified hours contracts, whilst also recommending the employees are paid the same amount whether they’re on a zero-hour contract or a part time / full time contract.

It’s worth bearing in mind that zero-hour contracts still constitutes a small percentage of the UK’s entire workforce and many people find these contracts to be very beneficial with some groups such as young people and parents with young children potentially finding them beneficial.

The flexibility of the UK’s labour market continues to be one of the secrets to our country’s success and buoyancy through the recovery, however the protection of employees and their engagement is essential to maximise retention and productivity which is still lower in the UK when compared to many other developed countries.