Office for National Statistics
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Official figures show nearly three per cent of UK workers on zero hours contracts

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has today published figures showing that 2.9 per cent (903,000) of the employed UK workforce say they work on a zero hours basis in their main job. This is up from 2.4% (747,000) for the same period in 2015.

Nick Palmer from the ONS said: “The estimated number of people saying they work on a zero hours contract has risen by over 20% since the same time last year. The ONS will continue to monitor and report on this trend to help inform understanding of changes in the UK’s employment market. It is likely though that some of the increase we are seeing is because public awareness of the term ‘zero-hours contract’ has continued to grow.

Businesses using zero hours contracts

Zero hours contracts are more likely to be used by larger businesses: 40% of businesses with 250+ workers make some use of no guaranteed hours contracts, compared with around 10% of businesses with fewer than 10 workers. A quarter of businesses in the accommodation and food industry (26%) employ some staff on a zero hours basis, compared to 5% of construction businesses (figures relate to November 2015).  

People working on zero hours contracts

Women make up more than half (55%) of those reporting working on zero-hours contracts. This compares with people working on other types of contract, where 45% are women. Over a third (36%) of zero hours workers are aged 16-24 and one in five (20%) of people saying they work on a zero hours contract are in full time education.

Hours worked

The figures highlight the flexibility of hours worked by people on a zero hours contract, with 37% reporting that they worked fewer, and 22% more than their usual hours at the time they responded to the survey. This compares with 29% and 13% respectively for other workers. Well over half (58%) of other workers said they worked their usual hours, compared with 42% of those who said they worked on a zero hours contract.

The majority (65%) of people working on zero hours contracts said they worked part time, compared with 26% of other workers. The average number of hours usually worked by someone on a zero hours contract per week was 25 hours. Nearly a third of people (31%) on zero-hours contracts want to work more hours, with most wanting them in their current job. Among both zero hours and other workers, a minority wanted a different job with more hours: 8% and 1% respectively.

Number of zero hours contracts

The latest available figures on the number of zero hours contracts (as opposed to people who say they work on a zero hours contract), comes from a different survey to the figures above, and were first published in March this year. They relate to the fortnight from 9 November 2015 and show that there were 1.7 million contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work had actually been carried out under those contracts.

Notes to Editors

  1. The report is on the ONS website at Contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours: September 2016.

  2. To read the previous report on contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours, go to: Contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours: March 2016.

  3. The number of people saying they work on a zero hours basis should not be confused with the number of contracts. The two figures come from different sources (the Labour Force Survey and the business survey). The number of contracts will be higher as people may have more than one contract with different employers and people who are on fixed hours in their main job may supplement this with a second “zero hours” job.

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