Which UK industry has been left out of the rise in zero hours contracts?

Guy Bentley
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Businesses in the UK's financial industry are the least likely to make us of zero hours contracts, according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The proportion of businesses in the finance sector using zero hours contracts, which do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of work, came to just seven per cent.

This a far cry from health and social work where one in five businesses make use of the contracts.

The ONS put the total number of zero hours contracts in the UK at 1.4m, a substantial increase from previous estimates of 583,000. Roughly 13 per cent of UK companies make use of the contracts.

The rise of zero hours contracts has been condemned by Labour leader Ed Miliband as part of Britain's "cost of living crisis." Miliband has promised a host of restrictions and regulations to crack down on the perceived exploitation surrounding the zero hours arrangements.

However, the ONS data shows that the vast majority of workers are satisfied with their employment situation. Over 60 per cent of those on zero hours contracts said they did not want to work more hours, with only third saying they do.

The ONS figures reinforce data collected last year showing the widespread contentment of workers on zero hours contracts.

In November, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed a survey that found employees on zero hours contracts were equally satisfied with their jobs as other employees.

47 per cent of people employed on a zero hours basis were satisfied having no minimum working time set, as opposed to 27 per cent who were dissatisfied.

People without a specified number of hours actually reported a better work life balance, according to the CIPD.

Zero hours contracts have been a constant source of controversy over recent years, with critics branding them as a sign of an insecure and exploitative labour market.

But fear over the rise of zero hours contracts may be largely misplaced, when one takes into account the state of the UK economy in recent years and the changes that have transformed the world of work to cater to a variety of lifestyles and circumstances.

Businesses have had to struggle against the backdrop of a slow recovery and a volatile Eurozone forcing them to adapt. Employers are only able to create jobs when they are certain hours and finance exists to provide them.

Zero hours contracts have provided a flexible way for employers to offers work in challenging circumstances. In many ways,such arrangements have acted as an employment stabiliser.

Between 2008 and 2010 Britain fell from a mediocre 17th in the world ranking of labour market flexibility to a dismal 35th, according to the World Bank. Flexible working arrangements like zero hours contracts have allowed the UK to up its game and provide employment at times of great economic stress.

With unemployment still running at 6.9 per cent, zero hours contracts provide a necessary tool in keeping levels of joblessness down at a time when many other European countries with less flexible labour markets are still suffering from staggering levels of unemployment.

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