Radio Sandwell Local News

Call for action as West Midlands named UK's zero hours capital

2015-09-15 14:38:52

zero working hours

The West Midlands is the zero hours capital of the UK according to new data revealing 79,000 people in the region have the controversial contracts.

A total of 3.1 per cent of the region’s working population have the contracts, which do not require set hours, compared to a UK-wide average of 2.4 per cent.

In total, the ONS estimates 79,000 people in the West Midlands were on the contracts, which do not guarantee regular working hours, in April to June 2015.

Across the UK, nearly three-quarters of a million people are on zero hours contracts in the UK, a fifth higher than a year before.

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at the Aston Business School, said he was concerned the rise reflected declining working standards in the region.

Prof Bailey said: “Zero hours contracts are part of a rise in more precarious forms of work.

“I know there are some workers, like students, who prefer these kinds of contracts but I see it as part of a fall in standards for UK workers.

“We have a problem with rising inequality in this country – the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation) has even said this now and recognised it is a problem for economic growth.

zero working hoursProfessor David Bailey

“If you look at growth over the last 25 years, a lot has done to few people.”

The latest data comes from the Labour Force Survey, which estimates the total number for the UK as 744,000 for April to June 2015, representing 2.4 per cent of people in employment.

This latest figure is 19 per cent higher than that for April to June 2014, 624,000 or two per cent of people in employment.

However the ONS said it is not possible to say how much of this increase is due to greater recognition of the term “zero-hours contracts” rather than new contracts.

The figures also show those on zero hours contracts are more likely to work less than their usual hours of work than those in other types of employment.

On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week. However, in April to June 2015, 15 per cent of people on “zero-hours contracts” worked no hours in the week before their LFS interview compared with nine per cent of other workers.

Around 41 per cent of people on “zero-hours contracts” want more hours compared with 12 per cent of other people in employment, though this could be linked to a higher proportion of “zero-hours contract” jobs being part-time.

People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be women, in full-time education or in young or older age groups when compared with other people in employment.

A third of people on “zero-hours contracts” are aged 16 to 24 and six per cent are aged 65 and over, compared with 12 per cent and four per cent respectively for other employed people.

A fifth of people on “zero-hours contracts” are in full-time education compared with three per cent of other people in employment.

Speaking to the Post earlier this year, Greater Birmingham Chamber spokesman John Lamb said while the contracts aren’t ideal, they can help to get people out of unemployment.

He said: “Companies are always going to need some temporary labour. A lot of work is seasonal, and you’d particularly expect that over that period.

“People need to take on temporary workers and zero-hours tends to be the way people do it these days.”

Data provided by Claire Miller of the Trinity Mirror Data Unit

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