A Matter of Time: The rise of zero-hours contracts

25th June 2013

Matthew Pennycook , Giselle Cory and Vidhya Alakeson

“Zero-hours” (or occasionally “nil hours”) contracts are anything but a new phenomenon. Employment contracts of this kind have been around for many years. Yet the use of zero-hours contracts has risen sharply in recent years. According to the Office for National Statistics the number of people employed on zero-hours contracts rose from 134,000 in 2006 (0.5 per cent of the workforce) to 208,000 (0.7 per cent) in 2012.

While the clear upward trend is not in dispute there are reasons to believe that these headline figures are a substantial under-estimate of the true scale of the use of zero-hours contracts across the UK.

It is not hard to see why zero-hours contracts can appear attractive to employers. They allow for maximum flexibility to meet changing demand. They can facilitate the management of risk, reduce the costs of recruitment and training, and they can, in certain circumstances, enable employers to avoid particular employment obligations.
Yet it is clear that the benefits these contracts provide for employers come at too high a price for the majority of those employed on them.

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24 June 2013
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