BIG FAT ZERO One million workers will be on no-hours contracts by spring
THE number of workers stuck on controversial zero hours contracts is set to top a million for the first time, we can reveal.
Latest figures show that last year 903,000 were on the deals – where employees can be called in at a moment’s notice, have no fixed hours and not even know how much they are going to earn.
Under the Tories the number of such workers has risen from 250,000 in 2013 to 622,000 in 2014 and 747,000 in 2015.
And unions expect the total to break the 1,000,000 barrier when the next set of figures is published this spring.
The grim prospect comes months after Theresa May pledged to build a better Britain for the “just about managing”.
Companies use the controversial contracts to cut costs by bringing in staff only as and when they are needed.
But union leaders say they are a nightmare for hard-up families.
Many workers do not know from one week to the next how much they will earn – or whether they will get any pay at all – and are forced to rely on housing benefits and tax credits just to survive.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show those on the contracts get paid £7.25 an hour on average, £3.80 less than people in permanent jobs.
And in most cases they cannot claim sick, holiday or redundancy pay.
In contrast the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest stock market listed firms get an average £1,000 an hour – around 138 times what zero hours workers earn.
Business leaders say the flexible labour market helps boost employment and zero hours contracts are often preferred by parents, young people and pensioners who do not want to work full-time.
But unions have accused employers of creating a “subclass” of low-paid and insecure work with no guaranteed hours or legal protection from unfair dismissal.
The TUC believes zero hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg and that more than three million – one in 10 of UK employees – are now doing insecure jobs such as seasonal, temporary or agency work, up from 2.4 million in 2011.
TUC research shows the 27 per cent rise in insecure jobs was being driven by traditional industries, such as teaching and the service sector, with restaurant and pub workers making up a fifth of the increase. Part of the rise is down to the private care home sector where the number of workers on zero hours deals has jumped from one in 10 to one in seven in a year. Latest ONS data shows about 113,000 of the 769,000 workers who provide at-home care or work in care homes are on contracts with no guaranteed hours. And those who make home visits are paid only for the time spent with clients, not for time travelling in between them.
TUC leader Frances O’Grady said: “In the past decade there has been an explosion of zero hours contracts.
“Bosses often argue they offer flexibility but in many industries they are just a way of employing staff on the cheap.”
Dave Prentis, leader of the public services union Unison, said the social care system would collapse without the “sheer dedication” of those who work in it.
He added: “Zero hours contracts give employers the upper hand with workers fearful of raising concerns.” Last year Sports Direct was shamed into offering all shop staff on zero hours contracts at least 12 guaranteed hours a week.
McDonald’s and pub chain JD Wetherspoon also announced plans to offer guaranteed hours.
Last month ex-Downing Street policy chief Matthew Taylor was appointed to head a Government review of workers’ rights and practices amid growing concerns about the spread of insecure jobs.
The Business Department said: “We’re determined to ensure our employment rules keep up to date to reflect new ways of working.”
WARNING: TUC leader Frances