34,000 employed on zero-hours working deals, says survey
Nearly 34,000 workers in Northern Ireland could be employed on zero-hours contracts, according to a new survey of businesses.
The scale of the practice, whereby employees have to be available for work but are not guaranteed any set number of hours, has prompted fresh calls for a ban on people being hired without the promise of a guaranteed minimum number of hours.
In a survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), 5% of employees surveyed in Northern Ireland described their employment situation as "having no set hours...ie a zero-hours contract". There are 677,000 people described as 'employees', according to the Department of Employment's most recent Labour Force Survey.
That compares to 4% for the UK as a whole, or one million people.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week revised its estimate for the number of people employed on a stand-by basis from 200,000 to 250,000.
The CIPD's survey of more than 1,000 businesses found one-fifth (19%) of employers had recruited staff on zero-hours contracts, with the practice more common in the voluntary and public sectors than in private industry.
Nearly half (48%) of employers in the hotel, catering and leisure sector had used zero-hours contracts, compared with 35% in education and 27% in health care.
Large organisations were more likely than small businesses to offer the contracts. The CIPD found young adults (aged 18 to 24) and older workers (over 55) were most likely not to be offered the contracts.
Fourteen per cent of staff employed on these conditions told the CIPD they did not receive enough work to ensure a decent basic standard of living.
Zero-hours contracts were initially introduced in hotels, restaurants and shops, but their use has spread to the public sector.
The number has reached almost 100,000 in the NHS, while new figures show more than 270 Government staff are on such contracts.
Unison, Britain's second biggest union, called for them to be outlawed.