Minimum and zero-hours contracts and low paid staff

24 January 2019

Every year the Low Pay Commission publishes a range of independent research projects to build its evidence base and understanding of the labour market and low pay. One of the latest reports is about minimum and zero-hours contracts and low paid staff.


Minimum and zero-hours contracts and low paid staff

This report was produced by Incomes Data Research (IDR) and looked at how zero-hours and minimum-hours contracts were actually used in a variety of organisations.

IDR gathered evidence from a sample of 40 employers on the use of these contracts for low-paid staff. They looked at the extent to which these individuals worked beyond their contracted hours and how volatile their hours of work were from week to week.

Across IDR’s sample, there was a wide range of practices and working arrangements. Employers reported using these contracts to manage demand and cope with temporary and seasonal increases. Organisations were more likely to use zero-hours than minimum-hours contracts, but where the latter were used, they tended to cover more staff, with the most common amount of contracted hours being four or six. On the whole, staff were not given a choice over the type of contract they took. IDR found that individuals on these contracts typically worked around 12 hours per week, although they also found staff working virtually full-time on both types of contract.

The principle that individuals’ contracts should reflect their actual working hours was at the heart of the LPC’s recommendations to Government (published December 2018). The LPC proposed a right for individuals to switch to a contract which reflected the reality of their working arrangements, going further than the right to request a more stable contract which BEIS are currently bringing forward.


Also published is a report, produced by Resolution Foundation, which looked at the international context; the different forms the problem of insecure work takes, and the range of policy responses countries have used to address it.