Rise in zero-hours contracts
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 461 16 March 2016
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people on zero-hours contracts has risen by 15 per cent since 2014.
The ONS study estimates that the number of people employed on zero-hours contracts in their main employment was 801,000 for October to December 2015, representing 2.5 per cent of people in employment. This latest figure is 15 per cent higher than that for October to December 2014 (697,000 or 2.3 per cent of people in employment). However, the ONS says that it is not possible to say how much of this increase is due to greater recognition of the term “zero-hours contracts” as opposed to an increase in the contracts themselves.
The report found that people on these 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 works 26 hours a week. Around one in three people (37 per cent) on these contracts want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offers more hours. In comparison only 10 per cent of other people in employment wanted more hours.
Over half of the increase in zero-hours contracts was from people in their job for more than a year. The ONS suggests that this could reflect either increased recognition or people moving on to a zero-hours contract with the same employer. The number of people on a zero-hours contract who had been in their current job less than a year also increased. This could have been due either to a rise in the prevalence of such contracts or to increased awareness of the terms of the contract when people start work
Last week the parliament in New Zealand showed real political will when it unanimously passed a law that bans a key type of zero-hours contracts for all workers in that country.
Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors commented “Whilst the rising numbers may partly be due to better understanding, the unstoppable rise in numbers remain a great concern. Zero-hours contracts are promoted as short-term solutions to short-term needs by business and yet 462,000 people have been on them over a year with this figure rising all the time.
The Kiwis have now banned contracts where the employer is not obliged to offer any work, but the employee is obliged to accept work offered by the employer. It is a step the UK government would do well to adopt to protect those ‘hard working people’ that Mr Cameron is so keen to ally himself with.”