22 November 2013

The use of zero-hours contracts in the UK economy has been under-estimated, over-simplified and unfairly demonised, with the positive experience of the majority of people employed on them being overlooked.

That is the conclusion of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) after a survey of more than 2500 workers found that those on zero-hours contracts are as satisfied with their job as the average UK employee.

According to its findings, zero-hours workers are, on average, nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with having no minimum set contracted hours, as they are to be dissatisfied.

Furthermore, 80% say that they are never penalised for not being available for work and more than half (52%) would not like to work more hours than they do in a typical week (although 38% say they would like more hours).

However, the research did identify areas of poor practice including confusion among some employers and zero-hours staff over employment status and rights. For example, 42% of zero-hours staff do not know if they have the right to take legal action if unfairly dismissed after two years service.

Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, said that there was a need to improve current poor practice in several areas, such as the lack of notice many staff on zero-hours contracts receive when work is cancelled.

He also pointed out that employers who took part in the research had said that, if restrictions were placed on their use of zero-hours contracts, they would simply switch to another form of casual labour.

Having looked at more than 1000 employers, the CIPD has confirmed its initial estimate that around one million people (3.1% of the UK workforce) are employed on zero-hours contracts.

From Paul Clarke, business writer for Croner.