Research published by the TUC suggests zero-hours contracts are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as hundreds of thousands of UK employees report being employed on short hours contracts.

Analysis by the TUC shows that, in addition to the 700,000 people employed on zero-hours contracts, another 820,000 people are employed on short hours contracts, working between 0 and 19 hours per week.

The TUC also found that, on average, those on short-hours contracts earned a significantly lower hourly wage of £8.40 an hour compared with other employees who earn around £13.20 an hour.

Both zero-hours and short hours contracts offer employees little security as the amount of shifts they receive can vary from week to week and they often have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.

Women are particularly affected, accounting for 71.5% of underemployed employees on short-term contracts. Retail, education, accommodation and food services are among the worst affected sectors.

Stephen Cavalier said: “Zero-hours contracts offer little security and it is often the most vulnerable people in society who are forced to take this low-paid, insecure work. This latest research by the TUC highlights that the issues surrounding job security in the UK are even worse than first thought.

"Ian Duncan Smith may be in denial on zero-hours contracts, but they are a harsh reality for many workers, with the Office of National Statistics estimating the underlying figure at around 1.8million workers.

“The Conservative and Lib Dem government has created a culture of zero-hours and short hours contracts, which offer no security to workers and excessive power to employers. The people of Britain deserve job security, a safe workplace and enforced rights and this must be a priority for the next government. We welcome the proposals in the Labour manifesto to outlaw abusive zero hours contracts.”