Almost half of people on zero-hours contracts want to work more hours and in a more regular shift pattern, but almost the same proportion are satisfied with the hours they work.
According to a survey of more than 18,000 workers on zero-hours contracts, 44% want to work more hours, while 40% are satisfied with the amount of work they receive. Only 16% want to work fewer hours.
Of those who wanted more hours, almost three-quarters suggested there was not enough work available to allow them to do so.
The survey, conducted by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and University College London, also found that 45% wanted a more regular schedule, while 12% wanted fewer regular hours than the shifts they were already working.
Workers were paid on average £7.50 an hour in 2017, which was in line with the national living wage (NLW) at the time.
The report says: “Such relatively low pay, coupled with limited and fragmented hours, implies high levels of earnings insecurity for workers whose only option is to work on this type of arrangement.
“Indeed, a stark dichotomy emerges between workers who value the flexibility provided by ZHC jobs, and workers who would rather work more and more regular hours and therefore appear to be engaged in ZHCs out of necessity rather than choice.”
Nearly three in 10 (28%) took a zero-hours contract because they could not find a job with guaranteed hours, while the same proportion had wanted flexibility to do other things.
A fifth said their job offered better remuneration than other roles that were available; 14% said it complemented pay from other jobs; and 7% said it provided them with an income while studying.
Impact of minimum wage increases
The report also looked at the impact of national minimum wage and NLW increases in the adult social care sector – in particular, roles where workers provided care in users’ homes. It estimated that 36% of the domiciliary care workforce was on a zero-hours contract and worked an average of 16 hours a week.
“The analysis reveals that minimum wage policies appear to have some bearing on the increased utilisation of ZHCs,” the report found.
“Specifically, in the context of the English adult social care sector, we find that the NLW introduction led to a larger incidence of ZHCs in the domiciliary care sector, ie a sector in which work is traditionally organised around fragmented hours.
“This suggests that firms exploit the flexibility of ZHCs in order to buffer the wage cost shock induced by the minimum wage increase.”