Flexibility doesn’t equal insecurity suggests new report into casual working

Flexibility doesn't equal insecurity finds new report into casual workersFlexible working and part time working tend to conjure up different images, with the former perceived as the preserve of the professional/management class and the latter associated with administrative/semi-skilled workers. That impression has been reinforced by trade unions’ complaints over the increase in the use of casual or Zero Hour Contracts that allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. Yet new data shows that a significant share of those on casual contracts (43%) are in the top three occupational groups (managers, professionals and associate/technical staff), just a fifth (17%) are in manual skilled or semi-skilled jobs, only one in ten are unskilled and one in ten in administrative; and just 18 per cent are looking for a new job.

Flexibility or insecurity? Exploring the rise in zero hours contracts by the Work Foundation calls for a more in-depth review of Zero Hour Contracts (ZHCs) than the recent review commissioned by Business Secretary, Vince Cable to identify their full extent and how and why they are being used.

The report’s author, Ian Brinkley (director of The Work Foundation) asserts that calls to ban zero hours contracts for reasons of bad employment are misplaced, as is the view that they are a uniquely exploitative form of contract. The analysis illustrates that those on this sort of contract are more likely to be part of the permanent workforce than in temporary employment relationships.

Ian Brinkley said: “In spite of the ONS figure increasing to 250,000 following their adjustment and the CiPD survey estimating around a million people are on such contracts, much confusion still remains. There are vast numbers of workers who are unaware they are on zero hours contracts. We still don’t know how many have taken them by choice and how many out of necessity. Nor do we yet understand the true reasons why employers are making more use of them.”

The report shows that while many would expect their use to be more common among temporary low-paid work, the reality is far more nuanced. The analysis illustrates how the picture varies from sector to sector. For instance, in low-paid work, their use is common in hospitality – where it is reported in nearly 20 per cent of workplaces – but rare in retailing – where it is 6 per cent.

The report also reveals that just 18 per cent of those on ZHCs said they were looking for alternative employment, compared with 7 per cent of all employees; 44 per cent had remained for two years or more with the same employer and 25 per cent for five years or more; 75 per cent had been in a job for more than two years.

Click here to view the Work Foundation’s infographic on Zero Hour Contracts.