By Jonathan Davies

Labour leader Ed Miliband has described zero-hour contracts as an "epidemic" as he reveals changes to the party's policy on it.

At a campaign event in Yorkshire, Mr Miliband revealed that a Labour government would guarantee the right to a contract for zero-hours workers who have been working regular hours for 12 weeks.

Under its previous policy, workers would have been guaranteed a contract after one year.

Labour said the changes would cut around 90% of zero-hour contracts.

"Zero-hours contracts is just one example of the insecurity in our economy and what has happened in the last five years," Mr Miliband told the BBC.

"If we didn't know from one week to the next how many hours we were going to be getting, how much we were getting paid, we would not think that was security for ourselves or our family."

But the proposals have faced criticism from the business community.

CBI director general John Cridland said: "Of course action should be taken to tackle abuses, but demonising flexible contracts is playing with the jobs that many firms and many workers value and need."

Christian May, Head of Communications and Campaigns at the Institute of Directors (IoD), said: "Labour's proposals go too far. They are unnecessary and potentially damaging. Frankly, this is an example of politics trumping good policy.

"A cross-party consensus has already emerged that would ban the use of exclusivity clauses, but limiting the use of a zero hours contract to just 12 weeks would apply rigid controls on an important element of our flexible labour market.

But Labour received support from TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady. She said: "We need a fairer system that guarantees zero-hours workers decent rights at work and stops them from being treated like second-class employees."