'Zero hours' contracts increase by 25% in 2012

8th April 2013

The number of professionals being placed on 'zero hours' contracts – a deal where they can get no hours and therefore no pay – increased by a quarter in 2012, according to a new British Labour Force survey.
 
The list includes doctors, lecturers and journalists as employers seek to take advantage of the super-flexible contract that was once the preserve of unskilled workers.
 
In its infancy, 'zero hours' contracts were only used by retail and hospitality employers in a bid to cope with fluctuating levels of demand over the year. However, many other sectors with similarly busy and quiet periods are now embracing the opportunity to supplement their work force and save overheads in the process.
 
Ian Brinkley, of the think-tank, The Work Foundation, describes the market as now "utterly polarised" with 'zero hours' contracts as they are being used for work at both ends of the skill spectrum.
 
"Everyone thinks they are the bargain basement end of the labour market: bar work, the worst aspects of retail, hospitality and restaurants," he said.
 
"But there’s actually quite a lot in education and health services."
 
Recent research from the Financial Times found a 24 per cent increase in the number of 'zero hours' contracts used throughout the NHS in the last two years, including a rise in the number used to employ consultants.
 
The insecurity of a 'zero hours' contract is that professionals can go weeks without earnings and experience unpredictable working patterns that give all the power and control to the employer.
 
"All the advantages are unambiguously with the employer," added Brinkley.
 
"For the worker, the problem with zero hours contracts is that you never know from one week to the next if you will be employed."

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