Zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) are important for allowing businesses to employ more workers and subsequently build their presence in the economy, according to Confederation for British Industry (CBI) director for employment and skills Neil Carberry.
Carberry was commenting on figures released by the Office of National Statistics that firms used a total of 1.8 million ZHCs at the height of last summer. This is an increase of 400,000 from the number reported last January.
Trade union GMB general-secretary Paul Kenny commented that the prevalence of ZHCs has led to “too many workers going to work fearful about exercising their basic rights”.
“What employers are offering workers has seriously decreased while workers often have little alternative but to accept what is on offer,” he said. “Even skilled workers in the UK face being undercut while wages are stagnant or falling in real terms.
“There are fundamental problems about Europe that we have to face up to. Whatever the European vision was on integration, harmony, economic advancement and political stability, what we currently have isn’t it.”
But Carberry said that flexible contracts “offer an important source of job creation that supports business growth and employees who need to manage different responsibilities”.
“The range of options on offer in the UK is why we are continuing to create thousands of new jobs, and have a high employment rate and lower unemployment than many other countries,” he said.
“While there has been an increase in the use of these contracts, they are still only used by just over 2% of the entire labour market. The important thing is to ensure that action taken to avoid any abuses doesn’t restrict the use of flexible contracts.
“Figures show that almost two thirds of people are satisfied with the number of hours they work, and being in work gives people more opportunities to increase their hours.”