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14 Mar 2016

One million UK workers will rely on zero hour contracts

Based on current trends and following another upswing in the use of zero-hours contracts, one million British employees could soon be depending on the controversial employment conditions, the Independent reports.

According to the publication, MPs and union leaders are warning that record numbers of workers are being left with no choice but to accept these unreliable contracts, due to more employers taking advantage of an insecure jobs market.

Last year, the number of workers relying on contracts that do not guarantee work jumped by 100,000 to 801,000; this increase looks set to continue throughout 2016, with experts estimating that it could reach a million by the end of 2017.

The biggest increase (two thirds) was among young adults, and women were more likely than men to be working on these types of contracts. While supporters of zero-hours contracts say that they offer certain workers – such as students and parents – greater flexibility than standard contracts, critics argue that they deny workers the benefits enjoyed by regular and agency staff, such as holiday and sick pay, pension contributions and decent wages.

“Anyone on such a contract has no guarantee of any work from one day to another,” explains Frances O´Grady, general secretary of the TUC. “Put a foot wrong, and you can find yourself with little or no work. Speak up and you can be denied all but the most anti-social shifts.”

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the percentage of people in employment on such contracts has risen from 2.3% last year to 2.5% currently, while more than 300,000 zero-hours workers have been on these contracts for two years or more.

The largest hikes were recorded in Wales, the South West and the North West, the latter of which has seen a 64% jump over the past 12 months.

Despite last year banning the exclusivity clause that prevented employees on these contracts from working for another company, the government retains that it will not completely outlaw zero-hours contracts.

Defending this decision, a spokesperson from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills noted that: “Zero-hours contracts have a part to play in a modern, flexible labour market. For workers such as students and those with caring responsibilities they provide a pathway to employment.”

Copyright © M2 Bespoke 2016

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