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Increase in "zero hours" contracts

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What does the increase in Zero hours contracts really mean in the employment market?

Commenting on the latest ONS release of figures on zero hours contracts, Ian Brinkley, chief economist at The Work Foundation, said: “The new figures for 2013 get us much closer to the actual level of zero hours contracts in the labour market. But we should be cautious about taking the huge jump in numbers between 2012 and 2013 at face value.

It is very unusual to see such a big increase in such a short period of time in the labour market statistics. “The Office for National Statistics warns that there may be significant under-reporting in earlier years, as people previously may not have been aware that they are not a zero hours contract. The high levels of publicity in recent months mean that many more people may be reporting being on zero hour contracts in 2013 compared with 2012. “There is also no reason to think employers have dramatically increased their use of zero hours contracts in the way suggested by the figures.

The largely adverse criticism over the past twelve months of zero hours contracts may have discouraged some employers who would have otherwise have used them and we know that some employers have said they will review their use of zero hours contracts. Nor has there been any large scale one-off event – such as the Olympics which might account for the increase.

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