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Workers on zero-hours contracts soar by a fifth to 744,000

By Alan Jones

The number of workers on zero-hours contracts in the UK has increased by almost a fifth to 744,000, new figures show.

People on a zero-hours contract in their main job represented 2.4% of all those in employment in April-June, compared with the same period a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The new figure will fuel fresh controversy over the use of the contracts, under which employees do not know how much work they have from one week to the next.

The ONS did not have a figure for people on zero-hours contracts in Northern Ireland - but if 2.4% of a working population of 814,000 are employed on that basis, it would leave 20,000 people here in that form of employment.

The Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland held a consultation on zero-hours contracts in the province last year.

Research published by the TUC shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared to £479 for permanent workers.

Two-fifths of zero-hours employees earn less than £111 a week - which is the qualifying threshold for statutory sick pay - compared to one in 12 permanent employees.

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