A Million on Zero Hour Contracts

The Business Secretary raises concerns that zero hours contracts are being used to exploit some workers…

A million UK workers are on zero hours contractsBusiness Secretary Vince Cable has voiced his concerns over the rise in zero hour contracts where workers receive no guarantees of work.

Zero hour contracts hit the headlines last month when the number of workers on such contracts rose dramatically.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that there were a total of 150,000 workers on zero hours contracts in all sectors in 2009, with that figure rising to 200,000 workers by 2012.

Last week the ONS admitted that it had underestimated the figure and issued and revised report increasing the number up to 250,000 by the end of last year, according to the latest estimates in its Labour Force Survey.

However, recent figures from the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, have estimated that there are 307,000 workers on such contracts in the care sector alone.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called this a "worrying trend".

Vince Cable, whilst acknowledging that the UK labour force needed to continue flexible working, said that these contracts must be fair too and announced that his department would be performing a "fact finding" mission.

A Million Workers

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) conducted its own survey into 1,000 firms and found that up to 4% of the nation’s workforce could be on zero hour contracts.

That figure amounts to 1 million workers.

Furthermore, the latest CIPD research shows that 14% of those workers have complained that they are not given enough work every week.

The CIPD research also found that the most likely places to find zero hours contracts were in the voluntary sector and the public sector with 34% and 24% of employers issuing such contracts. In the private sector 17% of employers were using them.

There was also a big difference between SMEs and big businesses using zero hours contracts – 25% of businesses with 250 or more staff were using zero hour contracts compared to 11% of those with fewer than 250 employees.

"Some Exploitation"

Vince Cable believed that whilst such contracts can be beneficial to both employees and employers, he voiced his concerns, saying that there may be "some exploitation" of workers on zero hours contracts.

Big media outlets have been naming the big name businesses who are using zero hour contracts and brands such as Sports Direct, Spirit Pub Group, JD Wetherspoon and McDonald’s, who apparently employ 83,000 of their UK workforce on such contracts, have all been named so far.

Other figures in the CIPD findings showed that workers on zero hour contracts were working 20 hours or fewer and aged 18-24 or 55+

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