New figures reveal almost 1 million workers are on zero-hour contracts in the UK, amid growing concern about the rise of insecure jobs among the youngest and oldest workers.
Trade unions claimed the government had “failed to crack down on unfair employment practices” as official figures showed a 15% spike in workers on zero-hour contracts in the past year to near record highs.
Some 974,000 people in employment, are on the contracts where workers are on call but not guaranteed any work, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released on Tuesday.
THAT’S 9% OF ALL WORKERS UNDER 25 NOW HAVE NO GUARANTEED WORKING HOURS EACH WEEK – DESPITE UK EMPLOYMENT HITTING A RECORD HIGH OF 76.5%
The number of zero-hour workers aged 65 or over has also soared by 30% in the past year, while the proportion of 16-24-year-old workers on zero-hours now stands at 9%.
The number of zero-hour workers jumped sharply to 974,000 in the last three months of 2019 – more than five times the number when the Tories took power in 2010.
It means 3% of all workers in the UK – and 9% of those aged under 25 – are now on the deals.
Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union which wants zero-hour contracts scrapped, said: “People shouldn’t have to live like this – zero hours means zero security and zero rights.
“Enough is enough, it’s time to follow the successful policies of other countries and ban these contracts once and for all.”
He added: “Companies are using zero hours contracts as a business model to avoid their responsibilities to the people who make them their money.
“On a zero hours contract you don’t know what wage you’ll have coming in from week to week, you don’t know if you can pay the bills or buy the shopping and you cant say boo to a goose or you won’t get any hours the week after.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “It is shocking that there are more people on zero-hour contracts in the UK than ever before.
“The government must make tackling insecure work and low pay a priority by banning zero-hour contracts and providing a real living wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over.”
The Office for National Statistics figures, released today, show the number of zero-hour contracts exploded from 2012 before levelling off and dropping slightly from 2016.
The number fell to 781,000 in April-June 2018 but then began rising again and is now at a record.
The ONS previously said the spike between 2012 and 2013 was likely due to increased media coverage and workers realising theirs was a “zero-hour” contract for the first time.
Overall UK employment jumped to a record high of 76.5% or 32.93million in the three months to December as 150,000 more women entered the workplace. Unemployment was just 3.8%.
But wages rose by 2.9% to December, less than the 3.2% to the previous month and less than predicted.
Myrto Miltiadou, ONS deputy head of labour market statistics, said: “In real terms, regular earnings have finally risen above the level seen in early 2008.
“But pay including bonuses is still below its pre-downturn peak.”
The ONS said in the fourth quarter of last year a record 974,000 people were recorded as being on “zero-hour contracts” in their main job, 130,000 more than for the same period in 2018.
And Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It is shocking that there are more people on zero-hour contracts in the UK than ever before.
“That means more people than ever having to live from week to week with no idea what hours they will work or whether they will be able to feed their children or pay their rent.
“The Government must make tackling insecure work and low pay a priority by banning zero-hour contracts and providing a real living wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over.”
In response the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said: “Since 2010 employment has grown and unemployment has fallen in every nation and region of the UK – but we need to do more to share opportunity across the country.
“At the Budget, we will invest and level up to ensure the whole of the UK benefits as we unite our country and unleash our potential.”
The ONS figures show the number of people on zero-hour contracts was less than 200,000 in 2011, but it increased steeply every year before levelling off at around 900,000 in 2016 and 2017.
That number fell to 780,000 half-way through 2018, but the ONS data shows it rose sharply in the months after that, and continued rising to reach the all-time high number in the fourth quarter of 2019.