The CIPD estimates there could be one million such contracts in the UK – so-called because they do not guarantee a minimum number of hours or amount of pay. That would mean 3-4% of workers are on the contracts, significantly higher than official estimates of 1%.
However, the Institute said only 14% of those working under zero hours contracts say their employer does not give them enough hours. If its estimates are correct this would amount to around 140,000 people.
The figures are based on early findings from the CIPD’s summer 2013 Labour Market Outlook, which surveys 1,000 employers. A fifth of those surveyed (19%) said they employed at least one person on a zero hours contract. Employers in the voluntary sector (34%) and public sector (24%) were more likely to use them than private sector companies (17%).
The industries most likely to use zero hours contracts were hotels, catering and leisure (48%), education (35%) and healthcare (27%). Large companies are also more likely to use the contracts than smaller organisations.
The CIPD has also mined employee data and, based on a sample of 148 zero hours workers, says the average number of hours worked a week by ‘zero hours’ workers is 19.5 and 38% of those questioned described themselves as working full-time – typically working more than 30 hours a week.
CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said more research needs to be done into zero hours contracts, with guidance on good and bad practice needed.
“However, the assumption that all zero contracts are “bad” and the suggestion from some quarters that they should be banned should be questioned,” he said.
Cheese added: “Zero hours contracts, used appropriately, can provide flexibility for employers and employees and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities. This can for example allow the parents of young children, carers, students and others to fit work around their home lives. However for some this may be a significant disadvantage where they need more certainty in their working hours and earnings, and we need to ensure that proper support for employees and their rights are not being compromised through such arrangements. Zero hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.”
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