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Zero-hour contracts more widespread than thought

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The number of workers on contracts with no guarantee of hours or pay – known as ‘zero-hour’ contracts – is far more widespread than originally thought, figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have revealed.

It shows that there could be up to a million UK workers on such contracts– four times more than official Government estimates. The new figures suggest that such contracts are used to employ three to four per cent of the UK’s entire workforce. One-fifth of the 1,000 employers surveyed had employed at least one person on a zero-hours contract.

The CIPD survey found:

  • employees in the voluntary (24 per cent) and public sectors (24 per cent) are more likely to use zero hours contracts than private sector employers (17 per cent)
  • the hotel, catering and leisure, education and healthcare sectors are most likely to employ zero-hours workers
  • organisations with 250 or more employees are more likely to use zero-hours contracts than smaller firms
  • zero-hour contract workers work an average of 19.5 hours per week.

The use of zero-hour contracts has risen sharply in recent years, particularly in the retail and hospitality industries, as they can be a cost-effective way of meeting short-term staffing needs, typically allowing firms to employ staff – often in low-paid jobs – who are ‘on-call’. However, some employment groups believe the contracts are being abused; with no fixed hours or pay some workers may work more than 50 hours a week one week, and none the next.

As with any type of flexible working arrangement, zero-hour contracts may be an appropriate solution for a range of situations but they require careful consideration and management.

We can help your business develop a flexible working policy.