The number of people on zero-hours contracts in their main job has fallen slightly, according to the latest official figures. Between April and June 2017, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 883,000 people were on contracts that do not guarantee work. This is 2.2% lower than the figure from the same period in 2016. However, the proportion of the British workforce on zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) remained broadly flat at 2.8%.There has been a backlash against ZHCs in the last few years, with some firms having been accused of exploiting workers by using them. However, many say they provide flexibility to people who do not want to commit to a fixed number of hours. The contracts have also been credited with helping the UK achieve record levels of employment. The number of people on ZHCs reached record levels last year, but the rate of growth has been slowing, as competition for workers has increased.Experts say businesses are also more reluctant to use ZHCs for fear of damage to their reputations.
Earlier this year, Homebase, the DIY chain, scrapped the contracts while McDonald’s and JD Wetherspoon offered their staff the chance to move on to fixed-hours contracts.According to the ONS, people on ZHCs work 26 hours a week, with just over a quarter saying they want more hours in their current job. That compares with 7.2% of other people in employment.It said zero-hours workers were more likely to be “young, part-time, women or in full-time education” when compared with other people in employment.In July, a government review stopped short of calling for a ban on ZHCs, but did propose a series of reforms to improve the so called “gig economy”.These include reclassifying workers for platform-based firms such as Uber as “dependent contractors” and improving in-work training.The prime minister said the government would take the report’s recommendations seriously.