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Zero-hours contracts have trebled since 2010

New data obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) by Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP reveals that the number of employees on zero-hours contracts has increased more than threefold since 2010 and is more than double what the government has recently claimed.

The newly-revised estimate, based on the ONS’ Labour Force Survey, shows that there are 583,000 people currently employed on zero-hours contracts, up from 183,000 in 2010.

In August the Shadow Business Secretary wrote to UK Statistics Authority Chair Sir Andrew Dilnot following concerns that the ONS’ previous estimate of 250,000 did not reflect the full scale of true scale of zero-hours contracts. In his reply, Mr Dilnot conceded that the figure was “subject to the risk of an undercount” and that that he had asked the ONS to examine zero-hours contracts in more detail and produce a new estimate. 

Despite this, in response to a Parliamentary question in October BIS Minister Jo Swinson cited the discredited 250,000 figure as the government’s estimate of the total number of employees on zero-hours contracts – less than half the ONS’ new estimate.

In September, Ed Miliband announced that the next Labour government will outlaw the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts by banning employers from insisting zero-hours workers be available even when there is no guarantee of any work; stopping zero hours contracts that require workers to work exclusively for one business; ending the misuse of zero hours contracts where employees are in practice working regular hours over a sustained period and putting in place a new code of conduct for their use.

Following pressure from Labour, the government announced a consultation on zero-hours contracts but the measures which ministers are consulting on fall short of Labour’s plans.

Chuka Umunna MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, said:

“Under David Cameron we have seen employment becoming less secure at a time when families are facing a cost-of-living crisis. 

“These new figures from the ONS, following my request to Sir Andrew Dilnot last summer, confirm that that there has been a huge rise in the numbers of people on zero-hours contracts since 2010. What were once a marginal and niche element of the labour market have fast become the norm in some areas and sectors under this Government.

“Labour would tighten up the rules to outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people and turn around the rising tide of insecurity we’ve seen under the Tory-led government.”

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