Zero-hours and short-hours contracts look set to become a permanent feature of the UK labour market. We estimate that the number of zero-hours contracts has increased from about 1 million in 2013 to about 1.3 million in 2015, and about 400,000 employees are on short-hours contracts that guarantee up to eight hours’ work a week.
This report looks at how and why employers use zero-hours and short-hours contracts and considers the characteristics, attitudes and preferences of employees on these types of contract. It is based on an analysis of data from the CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook and Employee Outlook surveys.
Our findings show that approximately 25% of employers use zero-hours contracts. While workers on these contracts may be less likely to feel involved at work and see fewer opportunities to develop and improve their skills than employees as a whole, they are also less likely to feel overloaded and under excessive pressure. The proportion of zero-hours contract and short-hours contract employees who say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs – 65% and 67% respectively – is slightly higher than the proportion of employees as a whole (63%).
In the CIPD’s view, the available evidence does not provide a strong case for further legislation to regulate the use of zero-hours contracts, and the best way to improve the working lives of the zero-hours contract workforce is to help more employers understand why they need to develop flexible and fair working practices and how to implement them.
‘An outright ban on zero-hours contracts could do more harm than good. Prohibiting contracts that give employees an option to turn work down could lead to some of them withdrawing from the labour force.’
This report updates and extends the analysis of zero-hours contract work presented in the 2013 report:
Zero-hours contracts: myth and reality.