Zero hours contracts hit 200,000

A total of 200,000 people were employed on zero hours contracts in the UK in the final three months of 2012, a figure that has been steadily rising in the last seven years.

Wed, 3 Apr 2013A total of 200,000 people were employed on zero hours contracts in the UK in the final three months of 2012, a figure that has been steadily rising in the last seven years.

This accounted for 0.67% of the UK’s near-30m strong labour force. The figure for the final part of last year was nearly double the 110,000 seen in the period April to June of that year, Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows.

Under zero hours contracts, workers are employed by a firm but not guaranteed any work, and instead are on call and asked to accept work whenever it becomes available – or turn it down.

The ONS data points towards more use of such contracts in the run-up to Christmas, a time when large users of such contracts, such as at retailers, and the transport and logistics firms serving them, take on extra casual or temporary staff.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s chief executive officer Kevin Green tells ITV that such contracts are key for keeping unemployment down, and businesses afloat. In a news piece on the TV channel yesterday, he said: “You could be saying this is keeping 200,000 people in work who may not have been in work if it wasn't for these sorts of contracts.”

Meanwhile, several unions have renewed condemnation of the practice.

ONS data only records people employed on zero hours contracts for the period April to June (Q2) and then October to December (Q4) – with the other six months of the year not measured. The ONS was not immediately able to clarify the lack of data for 2010. The data shows the number of people in zero hours employment contracts as:

  • Q2 2005: 55,000
  • Q4 2005: 75,000
  • Q2 2006: 81,000
  • Q4 2006: 134,000
  • Q2 2007: 96,000
  • Q4 2007: 147,000
  • Q2 2008: 124,000
  • Q4 2008: 125,000
  • Q2 2009: 104,000
  • Q4 2009: 164,000
  • Q2 2011: 106,000
  • Q4 2011: 161,000
  • Q2 2012: 110,000
  • Q4 2012: 200,000
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