The amount of UK workers on zero hour contracts has risen by over 20% in a year, as a total of 903,000 workers in the country say their full-time job doesn’t guarantee a minimum number of working hours.
In the period from April to June, 2.9% of people in employment are on zero-hour contracts, compared with 2.4% last year, where 747,000 workers were found to be on such contracts, according to new figures.
The Office for National Statistics found that zero-hour contracts are more likely to be used by larger businesses, as 40% of businesses with more than 250 workers make use of no guaranteed work, compared with only 10% of businesses with fewer than 10 workers.
The food and accommodation industry employ a quarter of staff on zero-hour contracts, compared to 5% of construction businesses.
Women emerged as making up more than half of the UK’s workforce on zero-hour contracts at 55%, compared to other types of contracts where 45% are women. Over a third 36% of zero-hour workers are aged 16 to 24 and 20% of people saying they work on this type of contract are in full time education.
However, Frances O’Grady, the Trade Union Congress general secretary, says that zero-hour contracts are an easy way for employers to employ staff cheaply.
He said: “Zero-hours contracts have become an easy way for bosses to employ staff on the cheap. There is no getting away from the fact that zero-hours workers earn less money and have fewer rights than people with permanent jobs.”
The typical UK employee earns 50% more an hour than the typical worker on a zero-hours contract and the median hourly rate for a zero-hours worker is just above the National Living Wage (NLW) at £7.25, while for all employees it is £11.05.
Mr O’Grady added: “It is very easy for politicians and employers to talk about the ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer. But they are not the ones living at the sharp end of the labour market. If you don’t know how much work you will have from one day to the next, paying the bills and arranging things like childcare can be a nightmare.
“The figures are a stark reminder of why we need to create more decent jobs people can actually live on.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that Sports Direct were going to cut back on zero-hour contracts for their casual retail staff, guaranteeing them at least 12 hours of work a week. The sportswear retailer is not offering guaranteed hours to more than 4,000 agency workers at its warehouse in Shirebrook as they aren’t eligible.
Nick Palmer, a spokesperson from the ONS suggest that the growth of zero-hour contracts could be down to “public awareness of the term ‘zero-hours contract’ increasing.