Number of Brits contracted for 'zero hours' hits record high

The TUC's employment chief has hit out at an increasing trend towards employers not guaranteeing their staff any hours, and treating them as 'industrial fodder'.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

New figures from the ONS show that the number of people on contracts that do not guarantee them any shifts or pay almost doubled to 200,000 last year. Nearly a quarter of Britain’s biggest employers use the contracts that mean they do not have to set out in writing the availability of actual work or income. 

The pay-off (forgive the pun) is that workers are allowed to reject work and take up shifts at another company if they can find the work. To spell it out, you have a contractual agreement with the employer but no agreed, fixed hours: anyone from a shelf-stacker at a supermarket to a freelance creative could have this kind of deal. Critics claim that it undermines government employment figures showing that more people are in work than ever in the UK.

Sarah Veale, the TUC’s head of equality and employment rights, said: ‘It is a sign of desperation that people will take anything at the moment,’ adding, ‘We’re not valuing people, we’re just looking at them as industrial fodder.’

It’s worth noting that the number of workers on this type of contract back in 2005 was just 55,000. Looks like the recession was a good opportunity for employers to dictate terms…

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