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One million UK employees are on zero-hours contracts, says CIPD research

Matt McAllister

The business secretary Vince Cable has said some firms appear to be using zero-hours contracts to exploit workers, following research from the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) which found that between three and four per cent of UK employees are on such contracts

Zero-hours contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. Staff can be hired at short notice when employers require them, and are only paid for the hours that they work . Critics say this leaves employees with no financial stability, a lack of employment rights and idea of how many hours they will work.

In total the CIPD’s study of 1,000 employers predicted that there are one million people on zero-hours contracts in the UK. This figure contradicts previous figures from the Office of National Statistics, which found that only 1% are on them.

Speaking about the figures to the BBC, Vince Cable said, “I think at one end of the market there is some exploitation taking place.” However, he also added that "It can work for the worker as well as the employer.”

Others, including some trade unions, have said zero-hours contracts should be banned.

The CIPD research found that zero-hours contracts are most common in the hotel, catering and leisure industry, followed by the education and healthcare sectors. It also found that employers in the voluntary and public sectors were much more likely to use these contracts than private sector companies.

“Zero hours contracts, used appropriately, can provide flexibility for employers and employees, and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities,” said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD . “However, for some this may be a significant disadvantage where they need more certainty in their working hours and earnings… Zero hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.”

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