The number of zero-hours contracts increased by 100,000 in 2017, even after calls for the Government to help those in these precarious jobs

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours increased from 1.7 million in November 2016 to 1.8 million in November 2017.

The survey also found that the people who were most likely to be employed on a zero-hours contract were young, students, working part-time or women.

“The age and education breakdown of those working on zero-hours contracts is as could be expected, especially with the popularity of online platforms offering delivery on a whole range of items in university cities and areas with high numbers of younger people and young professionals. As demand for apps such as Deliveroo increases, the number of those who are engaged on zero-hours contracts within these areas to complete these ‘gigs’ will increase. Where the local community is made up of students and those who want to work around their studying commitments, it is perhaps understandable that a large part of this population is performing work for these platforms who predominantly offer zero-hours contracts.” says Peninsula Employment Law Director, Alan Price.

Women made up the biggest share of those reporting working on zero-hours contracts at 54.7% and more than a third (36%) are aged 16 to 24 years. The flexibility that these positions provide is probably the biggest draw for those who need to balance work with family or study commitments.

Employers who are being cautious in the current economic climate may be more attracted to zero-hours contracts as Price points out “With uncertainty around the economy and profits being harder to come by, more businesses could look to use zero-hours contracts to create greater flexibility in their workforce and lower their projected staff costs; rather than having to pay all full-time workers their full salary during quieter times, zero-hours staff will allow employers to only pay the hours for staff who are needed to meet demands.”

Theresa May pledged last February to give workers the right to request a more stable contract, however many union leaders and the Labour party did not feel this was enough. This criticism could result in a review of current practices of the ‘gig economy’ with a possible decrease in the number of contracts offered.

“The numbers could also be downwards affected when the government introduces the new right to request a stable contract as part of their response to the Taylor Review. Employers may be put off using flexible contracts because of the new ‘right to request’ as they may become confused about the process or believe they will now have to give all workers guaranteed hours when they ask for it. Although the details around this new right are unconfirmed because of an ongoing consultation, it does appear that there will be no right to receive a fixed hours contract but merely to make a request. Before the impact of this right is known, employers may delay employing more individuals on zero-hours contracts and, if the right is onerous on employers, they may reconsider their contractual arrangements.” Price adds