Research shows increase in zero-hours contracts

13 September 2016

Since May last year, the use of exclusivity clauses has been unlawful, meaning that individuals have more control over their lives and can work more hours with another employer if they wish.

Estimates of the number of employment contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours are derived from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) bi-annual survey of businesses. They are complemented by estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) – a survey of households – of the number of people who report that they are on a “zero-hours contract” in their main job.

The report from the ONS contains the latest figures from the LFS which cover the period April to June 2016.

According to the LFS, the number of people employed on “zero-hours contracts” in their main job during April to June 2016 was 903,000, representing 2.9% of all people in employment. This latest estimate is 156,000 higher than that for April to June 2015 (747,000 or 2.4% of people in employment). In recent years, increases in the number of people reporting to the LFS that they were on a zero-hours contract were likely to have been affected by greater awareness and recognition of the term “zero-hours contract”. This latest annual change may also have been affected in this way but it is not possible to estimate the extent.

People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be young, part-time, women, or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment. On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week. Around 1 in 3 people (31%) on a “zero-hours contract” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offers more hours. In comparison, 10% of other people in employment wanted more hours.

The results from the November 2015 survey of businesses indicated that there were 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work had actually been carried out under those contracts. This represented 6% of all employment contracts. The equivalent figures for May 2015 were 2.1 million and 7%. Note that the differences between these estimates may have been affected by seasonal factors relating to the periods the data were collected for.