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News - 7 August 2013

Zero-hours contracts 'more widespread than thought'

p to one million people, many more than previously thought, could be employed on zero-hours contracts across the UK, new research suggests. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) surveyed 1,000 employers and found one in five use zero-hours contracts for at least one member of staff.

The employees who took part in the poll worked an average of just under 20 hours a week and were most likely to be aged between 18 and 24 or over 55.

Further data on 148 employees with zero-hours contracts showed that 14% reported their employer often or very often failed to provide them with sufficient hours to sustain a basic standard of living.

Some 38% described themselves as employed full-time, working 30 hours or more a week.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: "Zero-hours contracts are a hot topic and our research suggests they are being used more commonly than the ONS figures would imply.

The Office for National Statistics recently suggested only 250,000 were on such contracts at the end of last year.

The agreements mean that employees are expected to be on call, but are not guaranteed any work from one week to the next. Firms in the voluntary and public sectors, as well as the hotel, leisure and catering industries, are more likely to use them.

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
"Zero-hours contracts, used appropriately, can provide flexibility for employers and employees and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities. This can, for example, allow parents of young children, carers, students and others to fit work around their home lives. However, for some this may be a significant disadvantage where they need more certainty in their working hours and earnings.”

The Unite union said the Government must stop the growth of the zero-hours culture, as these contracts are "the latest attack on workers' rights and dignity".

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "Whilst some employees welcome the flexibility of such contracts, for many zero-hours contracts leave them insecure, unsure of when work will come and undermining family life.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
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