Increase in Zero Hour Contracts Raises Concern

As zero hour contracts become more common, concern rises about their proliferation

Zero hour contracts have been a solution to short-term staffing issues and are often applied to "piece work" or for workers who may be "on call". Employers are not obliged to offer work nor do the contractors have to take on the work.

Retail and hospitality are two sectors where these forms of contract have proven popular with employers but figures this week has shown that in the care sector alone there are over 300,000 workers on zero hour contracts.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, said of the recent rise:

"This rise in zero hours working is bad for employees and also for service users, many of whom are vulnerable adults. People want to see the same person whether it’s their regular carer or college tutor – something that is severely hindered by zero hours contracts."

The TUC has called the rise of the zero hour contract a "worrying trend" and say that workers in higher education, legal services and journalism are increasingly on these terms which the TUC calls "insecure".

O’Grady added:

"Secure employment would allow staff to concentrate more on their jobs instead of having to worry from one to day to the next whether they will have any work or money to pay for food and bills."

The figure of 307,000 workers in the care industry alone is greater than the previous total of 200,000 in all sectors as stated by the Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2012. In 2009 that figure was 150,000 so the rate of uptake has risen dramatically within the last year.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has already announced that his department will be conducting a "fact finding" mission and acknowledged that whilst the UK labour force needs to remain flexible it should also be managed fairly too.

Zero hour contracts have courted controversy by allowing workers to have no guarantees of either a minimum number of hours or pay.

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