A million workers on zero hours contracts says Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

5th August 2013

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Around one million employees or around 4% of the working population may be on increasingly controversial zero hours contracts the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has calculated.

As the Independent reports today, the official statistic was revised up by 50,000 to 250,000, but the CIPD has taken issue with this and estimates a much higher figure.

The CIPD surveyed a thousand employers to find 19% have employed workers on zero hours pay. It appears that the practice may be more becoming more prevalent in the public and voluntary sectors. The NHS, for example, may have around 100,000 workers on such contracts.

The survey shows 48% of employers in the hotel, catering and leisure sectors had used zero-hours contracts compared with 35% in education and 27% in health care.

The CIPD says a quarter of organisations with 250 or more employees used zero hours contracts compared to 11% of smaller organisations with fewer than 250 employees.

It says that among the fifth of employers who made use of zero hours contracts, the majority or 54% employed less than 10% of their workforce on these terms and the mean proportion of workers on zero hours contracts in these organisations was 16%.

The average hours worked by zero hours’ contract workers is 19.5 per week. In all, 38% of zero hours contract workers describe themselves as employed full time, working typically 30 hours or more a week. Of the 62% who are working part time, about a third (38%) would like to work more hours.

Across all zero hours contract workers (both part-time and full-time) 14% report that their employer often or very often fails to provide them with sufficient hours to have a basic standard of living. However 18% say this does not happen very often and 52% say this does not happen at all often.

CIPD’s chief executive Peter Cheese says: “Our research suggests they are being used more commonly than the ONS figures would imply. However, the assumption that all zero-hours contracts are bad should be questioned.

“There does need to be a closer look at what is meant by a zero hours contract, the different forms that they take, and clearer guidance on what good and bad practice in their use looks like.  And this needs to consider both the advantages and disadvantages in practice for businesses and employees.

“Zero hours contracts, used appropriately, can provide flexibility for employers and employees and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities. This can for example allow parents of young children, carers, students and others to fit work around their home lives.

“However, for some this may be a significant disadvantage where they need more certainty in their working hours and earnings, and we need to ensure that proper support for employees and their rights are not being compromised through such arrangements. Zero hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.”

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