Some 801,000 people said they were on a contract that guaranteed no minimum hours (or ‘zero hours’ contract) in their main job, according to latest ONS figures. This is 2.5% of the employed UK workforce, up from 2.3% in the same period of 2014.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “This latest figure is rather higher than the 697,000 people who said they were on these contracts in late 2014. Though at least some of this increase may be due to greater public recognition of the term ‘zero-hours contract’, there’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.”

People on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young, part time, women, or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment. On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually worked 26 hours a week. Around one in three people (37%) on a zero-hours contract wanted more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offered more hours. In comparison, 10% of other people in employment wanted more hours.

In November 2015 there were around 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours where some work had recently been carried out, according to the latest ONS survey of businesses. For May 2015 the equivalent estimate was 2.1 million, though some of the difference between May and November could be caused by seasonal factors. Therefore estimates for different times of year should not be compared directly. The difference between estimates from the business survey and from the LFS will partly be accounted for by people who have more than one such contract with different employers or those who are on fixed hours in their main job but supplement this with a second job without guaranteed hours.

Background notes

  1. The report is on the ONS website - Contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours: March 2016

  2. This report includes the latest figures from the LFS, which is a household survey, for October to December 2015, as well as new estimates from the fourth and fifth survey of businesses for May and November 2015, respectively. The reference periods for these were the fortnights beginning 11 May and 9 November 2015 respectively. Because these figures are not seasonally adjusted, the results from the latest survey of businesses (November 2015) are not directly comparable with the May 2015 results; and there was no equivalent survey in November 2014 to give an estimate of annual change. Going forward, the business surveys will be carried out in the May and November periods, to align as closely as possible with the LFS measure.

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