Number of people on zero-hours contracts jumps to nearly 1m

Helen Cahill
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Warehouse workers are often on zero-hours contracts (Source: Getty)

The number of people on contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours, also known as zero-hours contracts, jumped last year.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that in the final quarter of last year 905,000 people reported they were on a zero-hours contract, up by 13 per cent year-on-year from 804,000.

Read more: Stand aside, zero-hour contracts: the one-hour contract has arrived

Workers on zero-hours contracts now represent at least 2.8 per cent of people in employment. The ONS said the increase will partly represent more awareness of zero-hours contacts, and that overall awareness rose sharply between 2012 and 2013.

Zero-hours contracts have come under intense scrutiny over the past year due to a working practices scandal at Sports Direct. MPs conducted a parliamentary inquiry and criticised the way workers at the retailer's Shirebrook warehouse were being treated, saying the site was run like a "Victorian workhouse".

The agency that was supplying workers to Sports Direct, Transline, was forced to overhaul its compliance as a result of the inquiry. However, Transline's margins became so thin it collapsed into administration.

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"Some employers, including charities and healthcare providers, will continue to need the flexibility that zero-hours contracts enable," said Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors.

"However, the recent move away from these contracts at firms including McDonald’s, Curzon and Everyman cinemas, JD Wetherspoon’s, Greene King and others, is to be welcomed as a sign that employers are listening to employee concerns and adapting to meet the needs of their workforce.”

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