Analysis from the Office of National Statistics shows that there has been a three-fold increase in the number of workers on zero-hours contracts since 2010. Some studies suggest that up to a million workers could be on contracts that offer no guaranteed hours or income.
In September 2013, Ed Miliband asked Norman Pickavance, former Head of Human Resources at Morrisons, to lead an independent consultation into how to end the exploitative practices associated with these contracts. In particular, Norman was asked to consider how to ensure that workers who are actually working regular hours week-in-week out are not left on zero hours contracts without their consent.
The Pickavance report into zero-hours contracts, published today (25 April 2014), concludes that there are legitimate reasons for requiring the level of flexibility offered by zero-hours contracts, particularly to manage short seasonal peaks of work and where they suit the personal circumstances of individuals.
However, it highlights that zero-hours contracts can create significant financial insecurity for employees due to the uncertainty about what they will earn from one week to the next. The lack of clear rules governing their appropriate use also leaves scope for abuse.
The report calls for new legal rights to employees on zero hours contracts:
· To demand a fixed hours contract when they have worked regular hours over six months with the same employer
· To receive a fixed hours contract automatically when they have worked regular hours over a year - unless they decide to opt out
· To be protected from employers forcing them to be available at all hours, insisting they cannot work for anyone else, or cancelling shifts at short notice without compensation.
Dr Matt Lamb, Labours Parliamentary Candidate for Wyre Forest, says:
“The growth of zero-hours contracts is a symbol of Cameron’s Britain. Whilst zero-hours contracts can fit in with people’s lives and most employers recognise the importance of motivated and valued staff they have been exploited by the unscrupulous to take advantage of people seeking work.
Labour will always stand up for hard-working people. The next Labour government will tackle rising insecurity at work by ensuring that Wyre Forest is properly equipped to earn its way out of the cost-of-living crisis. Labour will take action to ensure that workers are not taken advantage of with zero-hours contracts”.
 Analysis by the ONS (2014) estimates the numbers to be between 522,000 and 645,000. Some of the increase may be due to greater awareness among employees of what constitutes a zero-hours contract. See: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/search/index.html?newquery=zero+hours+contract
 CIPD Press Release, 5th August 2013: http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2013/08/05/one-million-workers-on-zero-hours-contracts-finds-cipd-study.aspx