Rising insecurity at work as zero hours contracts jump 111,000

2.3 per cent of people in employment surveyed between October and December 2014 were on a zero-hours contract


Almost 700,000 people said their main employment was on a zero-hours contract, a jump of 111,000 on the previous year, according to a report out today.

The analysis of zero-hours contracts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 2.3 per cent of people in employment surveyed between October and December 2014 were on a zero-hours contract, up from 1.3 per cent over the same period the year before.

The survey of businesses found that there were around 1.8 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours where work was carried out in the two weeks beginning 11 August 2014.

A person on a zero hours contract worked on average 25 hours a week, according to the survey. However a third of those on a zero hours contract (34 per cent) wanted more hours, compared with just one in 10 (10 per cent) of those in other employment.

Those on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be women, in full-time education or under-25 or 65 and over.

Commenting on the figures, Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said:

“The Tories’ plan is failing working families. While they prioritise a few at the top, for others there’s a rising tide of insecurity. Ministers have watered down every person’s rights at work and zero-hours contracts have gone from being a niche concept to becoming the norm in parts of our economy. The ONS’ findings today that there are now 1.8 million zero hours contracts and that the number of people reporting they are on a zero-hours contract for their main job has risen by almost 20 per cent is yet another stark illustration of a recovery which is not working for working people.”

“Labour’s Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity would ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, prohibit employers from requiring workers to be available on the off chance they are needed, ensure zero-hours contract workers who have shifts cancelled at short notice receive compensation and give employees who consistently work regular hours the right to a fixed-hours contract. Ministers have sat on their hands and opposed our plans, in the face of rising insecurity for people. Only Labour will deliver a recovery that works for all, restoring security and dignity at work.”

Zero hours contracts are most heavily concentrated in industries with low average wages, such as accomodation, food and retail (HT: New Policy Institute).

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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15 Responses to “Rising insecurity at work as zero hours contracts jump 111,000”

  1. Extr

    Zero-hour contracts aren’t ideal, but they’re better than being unemployed.

    The idea that many people have that an “ideal” job is full-time, secure 40-hour-week is outdated. As this article says, zero hour contracts are concentrated among women, the very young and very old, for whom full-time employment isn’t always viable.

    Definitely, exploitative contracts should be condemned, but there’s no need for a condemnation of all such contracts, or otherwise those who condemn them should put forward a better alternative.

  2. littleoddsandpieces

    Zero hour contracts are not better than being unemployed. This is another case of Work Does Not Pay.

    The London Dock Strike back in the 19th Century was against zero hour contract and fought and won a basic working day for fair pay, because the cattle market choosing was starving men trampling each other each day in the hope of a hour’s work.

    Labour alone cannot win a majority. Labour struggle only neck and neck with the Tories. UKIP and the Tories will hoover up the gone-party, the Lib Dems.

    Zero hour contracts means no food money and is another source of families going to foodbanks (bulk of poor are in work).

    The benefit system is lost to people on zero hour contracts, as below certain working hours a week and pay, National Insurance credits are not gained, so no welfare and nil state pension in the future.

    Today 1 year NI contribution / credit gains some pro rata state pension.

    From 2016, a minimum of 10 years NI credits / contribution history will be needed to get any state pension at all.

    For the millions of poor, the state pension is the sole food money in old age. They will have neither private nor works pension provision.

    If the media and blogs gave more information about other socialist parties, they could win big in marginals because of the huge number of lost poor voters to any party currently on TV and in newspapers, and be part of a supply and confidence alliance
    so making Labour a majority in Westminster parliament with their help,

    These are such parties in England as:

    The Left Unity Party
    Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)
    Socialist party of Great Britain (Socialist GB)
    Class War (Double Dole and Pension)
    Mebyon Kernow of Cornwall

    Links on my personal website:

    Because otherwise, the Tories will bring about massive social unrest (none of which at the moment is reported in the news yet is occurrring more and more).

  3. David Davies

    If Zero Hour Contracts are such a boon to the working pleb, they should be extended to include the under-employed `honourable members’. If this means pay just for the 15 minutes at 9am, and 30 minutes at 10pm, spent in The House of Thieves, then so much the better. After all, they are apparently not `employed’?

  4. Faerieson

    Do you know what a zero hours contract is?

  5. Edwintheslugcrusher

    It seems incredible that the number of people on zero hours contract are included in the figures which the Tories claim are in full time employment.

  6. Darren Cahil

    The problem is, as is likely the case with many of us, none of those parties (the disorganised left), will appear on my ballot paper, so I’ll have only one option, either vote Labour or spoil my ballot.

  7. sarntcrip

    which is why so called record employment is failing to improve either productivity or the tax take,proving yet again the tory figures are a fraud record employment should mean record tax intake and thus no austerity nothing ads up under the tories

  8. sarntcrip

    there are circumstances where they do work but only if entered into freely imposition is just wong

  9. Jane

    I have three jobs. All zero hours contract and I still do not work full time each week (well maybe occasionally if I am lucky). The stress of juggling them all so there is not a clash. That one employer does not know about the other jobs. That I get home to have enough sleep before starting up agai in the morning to see if I have any work. And this is supposed to be the way forward? I look forward to the summers when I have no work at all and I have to sign on. It takes 6 weeks before they sort out my claim and by that time summer is over and I am back to work. The doctor has just signed my off work for 3 months but I cannot stop as if I do not work I do not get paid. I hate it.

  10. Jane

    Sorry zero hours should be banned.

  11. Leon Wolfeson

    And people on workfare are not counted as “unemployed” or economically inactive either. It’s ridiculous.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    The definition needs to be clear.

    For example, technically the contracts I do at Universities are zero-hour. Technically.
    In reality, I am offered a set number of hours, for a set period.

    Even contracts of this type should have a higher minimum, IMO – like, oh, the living wage.
    (University work pays a LOT better per hour than that, but in other sectors…)

  13. Faerieson

    Yes! That’s why I question anyone who seems to think that these ‘contracts’ are in any way acceptable.

  14. Leon Wolfeson

    Hence support for voting reform.

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