According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’), an estimated 1.4m zero-hour contracts were in place in May 2017, down from 1.7m in May 2016. David Freeman, a senior labour market statistician at the ONS comments that “It seems possible that the trend towards this type of work has begun to unwind.”
Such contracts have been at the centre of controversy, most notably through their use by Sports Direct. Other companies include McDonald’s where most recently workers in Cambridge and Crayford, south-east London, went on strike over their use.
These contracts have also been the subject of debate in Parliament; Labour have called for such contracts to be banned, whereas the recent Taylor Review refused to ban them. Interestingly though, the Review called for workers on zero hours-contracts to be given the right to request a permanent contract.
Large businesses, in particular administrative support businesses, are estimated to be the heaviest users of zero-hours contracts followed by accommodation and food services.
In terms of the gender and age disparity, women make up more than half of those on zero-hours contracts, and there are significant numbers of young people and students.
Despite the apparent decline, the shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said it was still a “national scandal” that 1.4 million people were employed on zero-hours contracts – “stuck in limbo in insecure work, not knowing how much they’ll earn from week to week, unable to budget for basic necessities and unsure if they can even pay the rent.”