Zero hours contracts have long been a source of discussion and debate and were recently brought to the fore again when the owner of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, was summoned to appear before the Business, Skills & Innovation Committee to answer questions regarding the treatment of its employees on minimum hours contracts.
Despite this highly public dressing down of a major UK employer, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures this month showing that the number of people who work on contracts with no minimum hours has risen to 903,000 – an increase of 20 percent compared to the year before.
Whilst this still only accounts for 2.9% of the total UK workforce, this figure is an increase of 45 percent since 2013, laying to rest any thoughts of these being a post global-crash, short-term, quick fix solution (especially given that unemployment is now at pre-recession levels at 4.9%)
The ONS data shows that whilst zero hours contracts are most prevalent for workers under the age of 25, more than half of the 20% increase reported has been for those aged 25 and over. Those in accommodation, food services, health, social work and transport are most likely to encounter zero hour contract employment terms.
Now that Mike Ashley has pledged to ditch zero hours contracts for Sports Direct workers, we shall wait to see whether other big employers feel shamed into following suit, or decide to increase these types of contracts to enable a more flexible work force.
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