The number of working age adults trapped on zero-hours contacts has reached a new record high, with close to one million people aged 16 and over counting a “zero-hour contract” as their main job, official figures reveal.
Figures published by the Office National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday show a record 970,000 people in employment on a zero-hour contract as their main job between October to December 2019 – up from 896,000 in the previous quater.
The proportion of working-age adults in zero-hours employment has increased significantly since 2012, when around 252,000 workers were on this type of contract as their main job – equivalent to just 0.8% of the workforce.
By the end of December 2019, this number had increased to 3% of the workforce and looks set to continue rising without action from government and businesses.
Commenting on the new figures, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood MP, said: “It is shocking that there are more people on zero-hour contracts in the UK than ever before.
“That means more people than ever having to live from week to week with no idea what hours they will work or whether they will be able to feed their children or pay their rent.
“The government must make tackling insecure work and low pay a priority by banning zero-hour contracts and providing a real living wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers aged 16 and over.”
Zero-hour contracts are controversial because they often do not award people the same rights and protections as those in full-time employment, such as the right to sick pay or a guaranteed number of working hours per week.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We now have nearly a million workers on zero-hours contracts.
“For many people this means having shifts cancelled at the last minute, and not knowing whether they will have enough money for food, bills or rent.
“Ireland has shown the way by banning zero-hours contracts. Now the UK government must do the same.”