The use of zero hours contracts is far more widespread than previously believed, the Office for National Statistics has revealed, after the government agency admitted the official number of workers on the controversial contracts is more than double the amount first thought.
More than half a million employees are hired on the contracts, which guarantee workers no set hours. The previous estimate was closer to 250,000.
The ONS changed the way it collects data following revelations that employers including Sports Direct, McDonalds, Burger King, Wetherspoons and Cineworld were using the contracts for the vast majority of their staff.
By comparison, the Big Four supermarkets — Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons — do not use the contracts.
The revelation puts pressure on the Government to impose stricter rules to make sure employers do not abuse their position by using the flexible contracts for most of their workers.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who requested the new estimate, said: “These new figures from the ONS confirm that there has been a huge rise in the numbers of people on zero-hours contracts since 2010. What were once a marginal and niche element of the labour market have fast become the norm in some areas and sectors under this Government.”