A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compiled from Labour Force Survey estimates, showed there were 903,000 with a zero-hours contract for their main job in the second quarter of the year.
That was up from 747,000 in the same period of 2015 – meaning 2.9% of the total UK workforce were on them.
The ONS cautioned that the increase, of 21% did not necessarily mean the use of such contracts was on the increase as the findings could represent a better understanding of the term among survey participants.
The controversial contracts, under which workers do not know how many hours they will work from week to week, has been under the spotlight this week after retail giant Sports Direct said it would change arrangements for some of itsstaff.
It was a response to a report compiled by its lawyers which showed that more than 22,000 people working for the company were on a form of a zero-hours contract.
More than 18,000 of them were directly employed by the group in its stores.
The ONS said those on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young, part-time, women, or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment.
Average hours worked were 25 per week though 31% of respondents said they wanted more.
Analysis of the figures by the Resolution Foundation think tank suggested over half the increase was among people aged 25 or above – shifting away from students.
The statistics were seized on by the TUC.
The union organisation’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts have become an easy way for bosses to employ staff on the cheap.
“There is no getting away from the fact that zero-hours workers earn less money and have fewer rights than people with permanent jobs.”
A Business Department spokesman responded: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, we want to do more to build an economy that works for everyone and to help working people who are struggling to get by.
“Since May last year, the use of exclusivity clauses has been unlawful, meaning that individuals have more control over their lives and can work more hours with another employer if they wish.”
News Source SkyNews