The professional body for personnel managers, the CiPD, produced a report after surveying employers, and one of the results was that close to 1 million people are on zero-hours contracts.
The findings challenge the estimate by the Office for National Statistics, which estimated that only 200,000 people were on zero-hours contracts at the end of 2012.
After the finding of the report were revealed, the Office for National Statistics revised their estimate to 250,000 and announced that they would start a consultation to get more accurate figures.
In his report, “Flexibility or Security”, published today, the author, Ian Brinkley states that “the greater use of zero-hours contracts is taking place against a background of falling real wages… and an employment recovery where permanent employee jobs have been in a minority”.
Controversy surrounding employers using zero-hours contracts (including many high-street names such as Sports Direct and Amazon) prompted Labour MP. Andy Sawford to try and get a Private Members’ Bill through parliament banning the use of the unfair contracts.
An employee on a zero-hours contract has no job security and are required to work as and when needed. At the lower end of the income scale, many employees on the contracts have complained of unfair treatment, especially being sent home by the employer after the employee has turned up for work. Other unfair clauses in the contracts include no (or very poor) holiday and leave entitlement.
A recent Labour Force survey found that the largest group of employees on zero-hours contracts are managers and technical staff at the high end of the income scale. Based on the report’s figures, 43 percent on the contracts are high earners.
The main problem with the contracts is that they are being used by big business for low-paid staff, which creates a staff pool that the employer can call on at will, and not employ when not needed.
The employer saves money by not employing staff on ‘proper’ contracts (whether full or part time) and circumnavigates some employee rights legislation and employer obligations. Workers on these contracts are also paid a lot less than their colleagues on ‘proper’ contracts.
Another disturbing aspect is that many employees on zero-hour contracts are not aware of their entitlements, and employers have been accused of using the employee’s lack of knowledge to implement unfair conditions.
Full and part time employees on ‘proper’ contracts have criticised zero-hours contracts as a means for employers to avoid giving the employees overtime and overtime payments.
Unions have also criticised the contracts as being grossly misleading and giving employers the right to employ slave labour.
Zero-hours contracts have slipped into the workplace quietly, hardly being noticed by the majority of the public, let alone people understanding the implications which could have a devastating effect on their own employment and income.
From the results of the survey, it would appear that people in every income bracket are being fooled into accepting these controversial contracts no one is safe.
Getting a new job could mean that you become a virtual slave to the company, and if you already have a job, workers on zero-hours contracts could undermine your earning ability as overtime is cut and the workforce on ‘proper’ contracts are not replaced when they leave, or are made redundant.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of the Private Members’ Bill. We suspect that it will not receive much support from the government.