Exclusive: Government 'has its head in the sand' over extent of zero hours
Wednesday 02 October 2013
The Government is failing to recognise the true extent of workers employed on controversial zero-hours contracts, by continuing to use data that is acknowledged by the Office for National Statistics – which publishes the statistics – to understate the problem, according to MPs and campaigners.
The ONS had previously said 250,000 workers were on the contracts, which leave workers with no guaranteed hours each week and subject to last-minute changes in working patterns. But it has since admitted that the data undershoots the true number, and some estimates put it at as high as 1 million.
Campaigners have argued that the "head in the sand" attitude to the extent of the problem could be behind the Government's failure to take action to defend employees' rights.
Companies using zero-hours contracts include Sports Direct, McDonald's and Burger King. Despite the ONS's concerns, the Government stated in a recent answer to MPs that it continues to believe the low number is correct.
The ONS's regulator, Sir Andrew Dilnot, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, has promised it will change the way it calculates zero-hours contracts, admitting the estimates were probably too low as individuals do not necessarily realise contracts are "zero hours". The ONS will now start polling employers instead of just workers.
The shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, said: "Ministers have their heads in the sand and are refusing to admit the huge proliferation we've seen on their watch of growing insecurity at work. Labour has recently announced plans to outlaw zero-hours contracts where they exploit people. In contrast, out-of-touch ministers have failed even to properly investigate the issue or how widespread these contracts have become."
The insistence of the Department for Business that the 250,000 number is correct is also at odds with the admission of the Government's own care minister, Norman Lamb, that there are 307,000 workers on zero-hours contracts in the care sector alone.
Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, which has carried out research into zero-hours contracts, said: "We have known for some time the numbers are probably far higher, so you would think the Government would admit that."
Before the summer, the ONS had claimed there were 200,000 workers on zero-hours deals, but following revelations that some high-profile businesses were using the contracts, it revised the estimate up to 250,000. However, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimated that around a million workers could be on the contracts.
Labour MP Alison McGovern, said: "You have to question how seriously they would take this if they are still quoting these odd numbers. They already know how many work in the care sector, which is more than the ONS data, so you'd have to question why they can still give that response."
Labour leader Ed Miliband has already called for a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts, while the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said he would be looking at legislating against their misuse. Three officials were instructed to review the use of the contracts over the summer, but ministers admitted no written evidence was requested from businesses.
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£77099.84 - £96375.26 per annum + Bonus + Benefits : Harrington Starr: My clie...
£45000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Package: Harrington Starr: Trading appli...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading prov...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A leading mark...