Office of National Statistics reports on the increased use of Zero Hours Contracts

27 February 2015

The total number of all people employed on zero hours contracts in employment between October and December 2014 was 697,000. In the same period of October to December in 2013, this number was 1.9% of all people in employment or a total of 586,000.

It has been said that “any news is good news” and so it has not been possible for the ONS to say how much of the increase between 2013 and 2014 is due to a greater recognition, rather than new contracts, as the number of people saying they are employed on “zero-hours contracts” depends on whether or not they recognise this term.

The number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work was carried out, was 1.8 million for the fortnight beginning 11 August 2014. The previously published estimate was 1.4 million for the fortnight beginning 20 January 2014 and as the two estimates of contracts cover different times of the year they cannot not be directly compared as the changes in the numbers may reflect seasonal factors.

The ONS Analysis of Employee Contracts that do not Guarantee a Minimum Number of Hours report however that on average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week and that:

  • Around a third of people on “zero-hours contracts” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, compared with 10% of other people in employment.
  • People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or working part-time. They are also more likely to be aged under 25 or 65 and over.
  • Over half of employers in Accommodation and Food Services and a quarter of employers in Education made some use of no guaranteed hours contracts in August 2014.

The Government, through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is proposing to make exclusivity clauses legally unenforceable in employment contracts offering no guaranteed hours of work or income (zero hours contracts) and received its second reading in the House of Lords in December 2014.