Nationally the number of people employed in zero-hours contracts rose to 2.3% of the employed population between October and December 2014, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The latest estimate shows 697,000 people said they were on a zero-hours contract — 19% higher than the figure from the same period in 2013 (586,000 or 1.9% of people in employment).
The ONS said the increase was not so much the result of a surge in the number of zero-hours jobs offered by employers last year, but due more to increasing recognition of the contracts by staff when asked by researchers about their employment terms.
The hospitality sector’s use of the controversial contracts was far ahead of any other industry — the education sector was the closest behind it with 27% of companies making use of such contracts.
Senior industry figures have previously warned that abolishing zero-hours contracts would have a negative impact, and flexibility is needed to allow employers to manage wages in line with fluctuating trade levels.
People on zero-hours contracts are classified as those who are: employed (have done at least one hour of paid work in the week before they were interviewed or reported that they were temporarily away from their job); report their working arrangements in their main employment include some form of flexibility; and recognise the flexibility of their working arrangements is a result of being on a “zero-hours contract”.
The coalition Government wants to ban employers from putting exclusivity clauses in contracts, which prevent workers from holding more than one job. A future Labour government is expected to change the law so workers with regular shifts have the right to a regular contract.