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Alarming rise of zero-hour contracts

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The number of workers on zero-hours contracts has increased by 104,000 to 801,000.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 2.5% of the employed UK workforce were on zero-hours contracts in the quarter to last December, up from 2.3% in the same period of 2014.
The data showed there were around 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in November, confirming that many workers are on more than one zero-hours contract.
ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “This latest figure is rather higher than the 697,000 people who said they were on these contracts in late 2014. Though at least some of this increase may be due to greater public recognition of the term zero-hours contract, there’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.”
Rise in zero-hours workers.
People on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young, part-time, women, or in full-time education compared with other people in employment.
On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually worked 26 hours a week. About one in three people on a zero-hours contract wanted to work more hours, with most wanting them in their current job as opposed to a different job that offered more hours.
In comparison, 10% of other people in employment wanted more hours, said the ONS.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Zero-hours contracts may be a dream for cost-cutting employers, but they can be a nightmare for workers. Many people on zero-hours contracts are unable to plan for their future and regularly struggle with paying bills and having a decent family life.
“The so-called flexibility these contracts offer is far too one-sided. Staff without guaranteed pay have much less power to stand up for their rights and often feel afraid to turn down shifts in case they fall out of favour with their boss.
“The European Union is proposing better rights for zero-hours workers – another reason why workers should be worried about the risks of Brexit.”
Research by the TUC shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared with £479 for permanent workers.
Jon Ingham of jobs site Glassdoor said: “The most common reason that unemployed people turn down zero-hours contracts is the need for a guaranteed level of income to make this a viable alternative to receiving unemployment benefit. These contracts favour the employers over the employees.
“With 38% of these contracts held by 16- to 24-year-olds, it means there is now a significant proportion of the young workforce without guaranteed incomes.
“This pay-as-you-go employment causes issues and judging by the comments on Glassdoor, this is not a preferred choice of employment in the long term.”