IN 2006, THERE WERE 136,000 PEOPLE ON ZERO-HOURS CONTRACTS. IN 2012, THERE WERE 250,000. IN 2016? ONE MILLION
by Lamiat Sabin
THE number of zero-hours workers has jumped to almost one million.
According to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published yesterday, a total of 903,000 people said they have a job with no guaranteed hours as their primary source of income — compared with 747,000 recorded last year.
Nearly a third of them don’t have enough money and want more hours — a zero-hours worker does 25 hours per week on average.
Casual work has increased five-fold since the Tories came into power in 2010, the report added.
More than half (55 per cent) of the near million are women and one in five is a full-time student.
The 21 per cent rise within one year is partly due to more awareness of what a zero-hours contract is, Nick Palmer from the ONS said.
This comes after exploitative practices were exposed at firms such as Sports Direct, which has recently announced that it has offered “guarantees” of 12 hours per week for workers after widespread outcry from unions and MPs — but only for those that are not employed through an agency.
The total number of zero-hours workers could be higher as the ONS survey only counts those who know they are on such a contract, according to lecturers’ union UCU general secretary Sally Hunt.
Around half of university teaching staff are on some form of insecure contract, she said.
Ms Hunt continued: “People would be shocked to learn that the types of contracts they associate with Sports Direct are being used to employ the people who teach their children.”
More people are employed on a zero-hours basis because it absolves bosses of having to pay a decent regular wage and rewarding hard work with benefits given to employees, said the TUC.
A typical employee earns 50 per cent more an hour than the average worker on a zero-hours contract, new analysis by the TUC shows.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts have become an easy way for bosses to employ staff on the cheap.
“It is very easy for politicians and employers to talk about the ‘flexibility’ these contracts offer. But they are not the ones living at the sharp end of the labour market.
“If you don’t know how much work you will have from one day to the next, paying the bills and arranging things like childcare can be a nightmare.
“The ONS figures are a stark reminder of why we need to create more decent jobs with wages people can actually live on.”
The problem of casual jobs — within what is often called the “gig economy” — is getting worse under the Tories “with every passing year,” said shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams.
She slammed the government over empty promises about tackling the scourge of piecemeal work.
She said: “Before the 2015 election the Tories promised to act on zero-hours contracts, but these numbers show that was nothing more than words.
“This is on the back of cuts to universal credit that will result in 2.5 million working families being an average of £2,100 worse off, hitting people in insecure low-paid work the hardest,” she added.