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Workers on zero-hours contracts fall for first time in six years

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

The number of UK workers on zero-hours contracts has fallen for the first time since 2011, according to official statistics.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal there were 883,000 workers on a zero-hours contract as their main job between April and June 2017, falling 2.2% from 903,000 in the previous year.

These figures “break the upward trend that was observed since 2011” according to the ONS, and it is likely to have been affected by “greater awareness and recognition of the term zero-hours contract’, it suggested.

Controversial zero-hours contracts were widely discussed during the 2017 election cycle after Labour announced plans to ban them in its manifesto. While they do provide flexibility for both employer and employee, as there are no guaranteed minimum number of working hours a week, they may not provide a stable or reliable income stream.

In total, estimates suggest these employees, who tend to be young, part-time women or in full-time education, now make up 2.8% of all people in employment.

The ONS said these workers usually commit 26 hours a week, but 26% want more hours. Most want the additional hours in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offers more hours.

Based on the length of time with their current zero-hours employer, these workers typically stay in the job for less than 12 months, though 97,000 have been in this position for 10 years or more.

Estimates from a business survey for May 2017 also revealed there were 1.4 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours, representing 5% of all employment contracts. The ONS explains that this number is larger than the number of people as these workers can have more than one contract.

On an industry level, most zero-hours employees tend to be in the admin and support services sector, followed by accommodation and food and wholesale and retail.