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Vince Cable vows tackling of zero-hours contract abusers

23rd Jun 2014

The business secretary Vince Cable has said the government will tackle abuses of zero-hours contracts once a better picture of the number of employers using the controversial labour-hiring scheme becomes available.

Cable said he was hopeful a “comprehensive picture” would emerge within the next few months, after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) admitted the practice could be far more widespread than first estimates suggested.

The ONS said last month that, at the start of the year, a study of 5,000 firms had shown there to be 1.4 million employee contracts in existence that did not guarantee a set number of hours but provided work during a two-week period.  However, it added that further investigation was needed into an estimated 1.3 million contracts that did not provide any work during the studied period.

Cable said: “While these types of contracts can provide important and flexible employment opportunities, it is also clear there has been some abuse of those on zero-hours contracts by some less scrupulous employers.

“That’s why I consulted [with the ONS] on the way to tackle those abuses and will shortly be publishing the results of the consultation.”

Labour MP Frank Field said he was concerned that almost 10% of the working population might be on zero-hours contracts.

The ONS said those not included in the original estimates of zero-hours contracts included agency staff, those who did not want to work, those on holiday or sick leave, and those not offered any work.

The office also said that women, the young and the over-65s were more likely to be on zero-hours contracts.  It added that nearly two-thirds of people employed on zero-hours contracts work part time, compared with about a quarter of people not on the contracts.

Meanwhile, Ed Milliband has pledged that a future Labour government will bring in legislation to provide better protection for those on zero-hours contracts.