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Rising number of employees on zero-hours contracts

Published 09 September 2015

The number of people being employed on controversial zero-hours contracts is on the increase.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show businesses used 1.5 million zero-hours contracts to employ staff in January this year, compared to 1.4 million for the same period in 2014.

The ONS said the six per cent rise is not ‘statistically significant’.

The contracts which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work are subject of a heated debate.

Trade unions have branded zero-hours contracts exploitative and unfair while the Labour Party vowed to ban them if it won the general election.

A union-backed protest is scheduled to be staged today (Weds, 9 September) outside of a Sports Direct store in Newcastle to demand an end to its use of zero-hours contracts.

For employers, the contracts are considered useful as they can help to provide a flexible workforce and a cheaper alternative to agency fees.

Fast food chain McDonalds has confirmed about 80 per cent of its 100,000 employees at franchised and company-owned restaurants in the UK are on zero-hours contracts, and that a survey revealed more than 90 per cent of those workers were happy with them.

The contracts are more frequently used by large employers with more than 250 employees.

The sectors which are said to account for more than half of all zero-hours contracts are accommodation and food, and administrative and support services.

In May new regulations in relation to zero-hours contracts were introduced. It means the law stops employers from enforcing 'exclusivity clauses' - where an employer restricts workers from working for other employers - in the agreements.

The Acas list of key points:

•Zero hours contracts normally mean there is no obligation for employers to offer work, or for workers to accept it.

•Most zero hours contracts will give staff 'worker' employment status.

•Zero hours workers have the same employment rights as regular workers, although they may have breaks in their contracts, which affect rights that accrue over time.

•Zero hours workers are entitled to annual leave, the National Minimum Wage and pay for work-related travel in the same way as regular workers.


Below is the link to the ONS press release re rising number of zero-hours contracts.

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