The number of workers who say they are on zero hours contracts has risen to 801,000, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said this is up 104,000 on last year, prompting widespread criticism of the contracts, which do not offer workers a predictable income. Commentators said the contracts are one-sided and being used as a cost-cutting device.
Doug Monro, co-founder of jobs website Adzuna, said the demand for choice around working hours is not being met by employers and this is forcing people to accept zero hours options.
“There’s a real demand for more choice about working hours and a strong desire to achieve a fulfilling work life balance. Few companies have adapted to this change – leaving many job hunters to seek self-employed positions. And with employers resistant to fill this gap and stray from a normal working routine, zero-hour contracts offer the main alternative,” he said.
Monro added that zero hour contracts can be ‘a lifeline’ for people who want extra income and flexibility but “too often employees are left without job security and employers holding all the cards”.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady agreed. “Zero-hour contracts may be a dream for cost-cutting employers. But they can be a nightmare for workers,” she said. “The so-called ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer is far too one-sided. Staff without guaranteed pay have much less power to stand up for their rights and often feel afraid to turn down shifts in case they fall out of favour with their boss.”
TUC research shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers. Two-fifths (39%) of zero-hours workers earn less than £111 a week – the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay – compared to 1 in 12 (8%) permanent employees.
Meanwhile, recruitment website Glassdoor said zero hours contracts are not seen as attractive long-term options by prospective employees and employers that use them are losing trust. Jon Ingham, Glassdoor’s career and workplace expert said: “The perception is that these contracts favour the employers over the employees. For some it might be beneficial to have the flexibility to fit around their lifestyle but for others it’s a contract which offers little in the way of job security.”
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