03 March 2017
A record 910,000 people are now working on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs), new research has shown.
Today’s report from the Resolution Foundation revealed that the number of people on ZHCs rose by 100,000, or 13%, between the last three months of 2015 and the last three months of 2016.
Over the last two years, the number of people on ZHCs has jumped by an enormous 30%.
What’s more, it seems the contracts are being used to hire workers of a completely different demographic than one might expect. While politicians and businesses have defended ZHCs by saying they allow young people to work flexibly around their studies, for instance, the new research reveals that 46% of the net increase in ZHCs in the last year can be accounted for by workers between the ages of 55 and 64.
In more optimistic news, the rate of increase in ZHCs slowed significantly in the second half of 2016 to a rate of 0.8% compared with 7.7% a year earlier.
The Institute of Employment Rights argues that current labour law standards are encouraging the use of insecure contracts by employers by providing them with perverse incentives to keep workers in the most vulnerable of positions.
For instance, having a separate legal definition for “workers” – who have fewer rights and cannot claim unfair dismissal – compared with “employees”, who are offered more security in their roles, encourages some businesses to rely on agency “workers” who can be easily “hired and fired”.
In our Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 recommendations for reform, the principles of which have been adopted by the Labour Party – we argue that a universal definition of “worker” should be applied to all people in employment, making them eligible for the full suite of employment rights from day one.
Furthermore, we call for Sectoral Employment Commissions to be established in each industry, allowing trade unions and employers’ associations to negotiate on a decent standard of pay and conditions to be applied as a minimum across each sector. These minimums can then be built on by collective agreements at enterprise level. This means that anybody working within that sector, however they may be employed, will be provided with the same wages and conditions as their peers.