Thursday 20 August 2015 9:50 am

UK jobs market: People would rather be unemployed than work on a zero hours contract

People would rather be unemployed than on a zero hours contract, according to a new study that shows half of those who’ve been offered the controversial contract turned it down, opting instead for continued unemployment.

Zero hours contracts, which guarantee no set hours, have skyrocketed in recent years, but despite 700,000 people in the UK being on them today the contract appears unpopular. One in four unemployed people have at some point been offered a job on this basis, but a new survey from recruitment marketplace Glassdoor shows that 48 per cent of these turned it down.

Read more: Zero hours contracts are a godsend for high-flying professionals

Unsurprisingly, the need for a guaranteed level of income was the main reason for rejecting the jobs, but almost half of those surveyed also cited a lack of trust towards the employers that offer them, suggesting many were also put off by the negative press coverage about them.

Companies’ use of these contracts turned into a political issue ahead of the election, with Sports Direct coming under particular fire for using them.

Jon Ingham, Glassdoor’s career and workplace expert, said the survey showed that people usually take zero hours contracts only because they have no other choice – although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing:

This could be interpreted as employers exploiting the most vulnerable, namely people who really need the money. However, for others it is a useful stop-gap, it can provide valuable work experience and the flexibility can be a positive depending on your life stage.

The finance sector has the lowest rate of zero hours contracts, with just 0.6 per cent of workers in the industry working on this basis, compared to the accommodation and food sector, where one in 10 are employed on this contract.