Research released by the Office for National Statistics reports that there has been a 100,000 increase in the number of employees hired on zero hour contracts for their main job. Official statistics estimate that currently 670,000 people are employed on zero hour contacts. Upon closer investigation a breakdown of the figures showed that the vast majority of those employed on zero hour contracts were new starters to a company, having worked for the business for 12 months or less with the figure increasing from 228, 779 to 291,462.

However the NSO were quick to point out that the reported rise may not actually signify a surge in the number of people employed under zero hour contracts over the past 12 months, but say it could be attributed to an increase in awareness over employment terms. Once again, the reported rise has become a source of political contention, with trade unions and left wing politicians accusing the current government of enabling low paid, zero hour trading culture within the labour market. This view has been echoed in the press, with the use of zero hour contracts creating a great of negative criticism within various media outlets as many assert that employers are exploiting the so called ‘flexible working culture’ at the expense of employees.

What is perhaps most shocking is the fact some of Britain’s largest employers offer zero hour contracts to employees such as JD Weatherspoons, Domino’s Pizza, and Sports Direct. Zero hour contracts also feature heavily in the hospitality and catering industry, with over half the business within the two industries making use flexible working hours.

In light of the looming elections employers should be cautious when choosing to contract workers on a zero hour basis, as political parties such as Labour have targeted the restriction or removal of zero hour contacts as a key step restoring employee rights and subsequently Britain’s prosperity. Whilst the use of nil hour contracts may offer numerous benefits to the employer the perspective has now shifted to restoring the welfare of the worker, and this begins with consistent regular working hours regulated through fixed hour contracts. Therefore employers should be aware how potential changes in employment law could impact on the core structures of their business, seeking expert legal advice in order to minimise the risk of a HR and employment issue arising.

For advice or assistance in relation to zero hour and employment contracts contact Farleys specialist Commercial HR and Employment law team on 0845 050 1958, alternatively please complete an online enquiry form.