As many as one million zero-hour contracts may be active across the UK – Vince Cable calls it exploitation

Government is investigating zero-hour contracts

New research puts the number of people in the UK on zero-hours contracts at one million – and the government is now planning on investigating these controversial employment relationships.

Anyone who’s worked in a pub or restaurant might be familiar with the system, in which your shifts could fluctuate to some degree one week to the next.

This type of contract technically does not mean the employees are guaranteed work from one week to the next however, and in some cases they can be told to work at different locations, which is where the controversy lies.

Some reports claim workers at chains like Boots can be told to leave their homes and families and be shipped off abroad to work at short notice – which may be a slightly hysterical reading of events, but does highlight a fairly un-worker friendly arrangement which doesn’t offer much stability.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has waded in, saying "I think at one end of the market there is some exploitation taking place", and that the Government is investigating the issue.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development put together the research which claims the one million figure, which is far higher than figures from the Office of National Statistics which claims 250,000.

Not everyone think zero-hour contracts are a bad thing – Apprentice runner-up Katie Hopkins has written for the Huffington Post celebrating the contracts, claiming "zero hours contracts create a positive tension in a workforce."

Do you work under or employ people on zero-hour contracts? Do they represent some form of exploitation, or simply a way in which employers can exercise operational flexibility?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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