With unemployment at its lowest levels since the mid-1970s, is the writing on the wall for zero hours contracts?

On 23 April the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures showing that in November 2017 there were 1.8 million zero hours contracts, being six percent of all employment contracts. This is an increase of about six percent over the previous November, and at the same time there has been a similar growth in the number of employment contracts. So the position is at present holding steady.

The ONS found that on average zero hours employees work 25.2 hours a week, and tend to be young, students, or women. About a quarter want more hours, and 901,000 say their zero hours contract is their sole job.

For employers zero hours contracts provide flexibility. The organisation can be responsive to changes in demand. But what about employees? Zero hours contracts can provide flexibility for them too, fitting round their studies or families.

There are advantages for both employer and employee but there are also disadvantages. It is said that zero hours contracts can lead to insecurity for employees, and difficulty in budgeting.

Zero hours contracts are a bone of contention for some unions and politicians. But economists are saying that with low unemployment zero hours contracts are plateauing. The ball may be returning to the employee’s court without government intervention.

For help and advice contact Emma Louise-Hewitt, e.hewitt@sydneymitchell.co.uk on 0808 166 8827

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