Record 1.1 Million Workers Employed on Zero-Hour Contracts in the UK


A staggering 1.1 million Britons are currently employed on zero-hour contracts, marking a record high, according to research conducted by the Work Foundation think tank.

The study revealed a concerning trend of increasing reliance on such contracts, with an additional 136,000 zero-hour contracts issued in 2023 compared to the previous year, with 88,000 of these contracts given to younger workers aged 16-24.

Zero-hour contracts, characterized by their flexible employment terms that lack any minimum working hours for employees, are particularly prevalent in sectors such as hospitality, health and social care, and retail.

Alarmingly, the Work Foundation found that only a mere 6% of employees on zero-hour contracts enjoyed “secure employment with regular income and access to rights,” while approximately three-quarters of the 1.1 million workers suffered from financial insecurity and lacked basic worker protections.

The Labour Party has denounced these contracts as exploitative and has pledged to ban them if elected. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves outlined Labour’s plans to grant all workers the right to a contract that accurately reflects the number of hours they regularly work, based on a 12-week reference period. Additionally, Labour aims to ensure basic rights from day one of employment, including protection from unfair dismissal, sick pay, and parental leave.

Several European countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain, have either banned or significantly restricted zero-hour employment. The Work Foundation advocates for UK employers to provide a minimum number of working hours, introduce a three-week notice period for shift work, and preserve a worker’s ability to request a zero-hour contract only if it is genuinely casual.

The research further revealed that one in ten young Britons are on zero-hour contracts, with marginalized groups such as women and those from black, ethnic minority, or mixed backgrounds more likely to be employed under such precarious arrangements.

According to Alice Martin, head of research at the foundation, while some professionals may opt for zero-hour contracts for flexibility, the majority of workers seek stable employment with regular hours and pay. The prevalence of insecure work among young people, particularly as they embark on their careers, can have detrimental effects on their future job prospects and overall well-being, highlighting the urgent need for policy intervention to strike a better balance between workplace security and flexibility.





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