Britain to publish improved data on zero-hours workers
LONDON: Britain’s national statistics office will start asking employers how many people they employ on “zero-hours contracts” following criticism that it has failed to capture this new and controversial hiring trend.
Almost unheard of in the rest of Europe and the United States, the growth of such contracts - which offer no guaranteed work or pay - helps explain the resilience of Britain’s labour market in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
One in five jobs created in Britain since late 2008 has come with one of these contracts.
The Office for National Statistics said on Thursday it would launch a consultation next month with a view to publishing more accurate figures on the contracts early in 2014.
“We have followed the debate on zero-hours contracts, and there is a clear need for better statistics,” said ONS Director General Glen Watson.
The Bank of England’s recent decision to link any rise in interest rates to the health of the labour market has only heightened the need for more accurate data.
Business secretary Vince Cable launched a review into the use of zero-hour contracts in June. However, the opposition Labour party says this review does not go far enough and plans to call a parliamentary debate on the subject in September calling for more action.
The current estimate of zero-hours contracts is based on an ad hoc analysis of employee responses collected in the regular Labour Force Survey. While this survey is the largest of its kind in the country, its accuracy depends on employees correctly reporting their terms of employment. In practice, many people on zero-hours contacts have simply marked themselves as contract workers.
The Office for National Statistics estimated earlier this month that 250,000 Britons were employed on zero-hours contracts at the end of 2012, an upward revision to its earlier estimate of 200,000.
The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development reckons 3 to 4 per cent of Britons are on the contracts, equivalent to one million people.