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Zero-hours Contracts Falling but Still Account for 1.7m Jobs

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In November last year there were 1.7m zero-hours jobs, which was the same figure as the year before. This represented 6% of working contracts. However, the Office for National Statistics now says that the number of companies using zero-hours contracts has now fallen.

Bad press

The thinktank, the Resolution Foundation suggested a number of reasons for this. One of them is the obvious bad reputation that zero-hours contracts have among the general public. This contributes to protests that make the news, brand boycotts and overall negative feelings towards companies that do use them.

Some companies are trying to distance themselves from zero-hours contracts because of this. A recent example of this comes from McDonald’s who have faced protests and backlash over low wages and insecure working contracts.

McDonald’s recently moved to offer fixed contracts to 115,000 zero-hours workers in April. This comes after previously defending them and arguing that they provide flexibility to workers. They still say that the majority of zero-hours workers are happy with the arrangement.

Conor D’Arcy, policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation said that this is “more evidence that the rapid rise in zero-hours contract use looks to have come to an end. It’s likely that this reflects a combination of workers seeking alternatives in a healthier jobs market and firms recognising that they don’t always represent an appropriate option.”

Insecure work still a problem

D’Arcy was quick to point out that this doesn’t mean that insecure work is no longer a huge problem in today’s society. He added, “Agency work, short-hours contracts and self-employment have all grown substantially in recent years, increasing the number of people in ‘atypical’ work.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that these figures were no reason to celebrate as companies are still finding other ways to employ people on insecure terms. “While it’s good that some companies are moving away from using them, there are a staggering 1.7m zero-hours contracts still in use.

“Let’s not pretend that life at the sharp end of the labour market is getting easier. There is growing evidence of firms employing staff on short-hours contracts to avoid the bad PR associated with zero-hours jobs. These contracts guarantee as little as one hour a week and, like zero-hours contracts, leave workers at the beck and call of their bosses.”

O’Grady went on to suggest that every party should include a promise to target zero-hours contracts in order to crack down on insecure work.

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