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Latest zero-hours contract study released

23 April 2018

An updated report on zero-hours contracts has been released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), adding more detail to its initial release in February this year.

It includes figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), covering the period from October to December 2017, combined with a survey of businesses from November 2017.

While the LFS is predominantly features the results from individuals, the ONS stated that this can see higher numbers of zero-hours contracts recorded than the survey of businesses, as individuals can have more than one contract.

The ONS stated that the business results also include contracts for "a variety of working arrangements", including those where people continue to work regular hours despite this not being a feature of their contract.

This can also lead to varying perceptions of zero-hours contracts between individuals and businesses, where working hours remain stable or people work irregular hours as a preference.

With approximately 40,000 households per quarter targeted by the LFS, the ONS contacted 5,000 businesses and received more than 2,700 responses for its zero-hours survey.

A total of 901,000 people were estimated to be working on zero-hours contracts up to December last year, which represents 2.8% of the workforce, 0.5% less than the previous year.

Previous surveys showed a rapid rise in zero-hours contracts from 2011 to 2016, which has been attributed to greater awareness of the term, particularly between 2012 and 2013.

Of the 901,000, more than 310,000 people had been on a zero-hours contract for less than 12 months, with approximately 205,000 recording a figure of two years, but less than five.

Around 160,000 had been on a zero-hours contract for more than one year but less than two, with the remainder relatively evenly divided between five years but less than 10, and those working for 10 years or more with no hours guaranteed.

Nearly 55% of those working on zero-hours contracts are women and just under 47% are men, the survey stated.

While 36% of people on zero-hours contracts are aged between 16 and 24 years old, nearly 19% are in full-time education.

These figures have remained relatively stable in recent years.

The report also provides figures for industries using zero-hours contracts, with accommodation and food recording the highest figure of 22.5%.

Health and social work was the next highest, at around 19%, the wholesale and retail sector - which has received the most publicity over zero-hours contracts, rated as fourth on approximately 10.5%, followed by administration and support services and education, both recording a figure of 7.5%.

Those wishing to download the ONS report can do so here.

The ONS also reported that this will be the last time it incorporates the results of the business service survey on zero-hours contracts, with future surveys including the LFS study as the principal provider of data.

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