How many people on zero hours contracts want more hours?

Published: 14th Sep 2018

In brief


The Taylor Review found that 58% of people working on zero hour contracts did not want more hours.


Incorrect, it was actually 68%, which refers to people on the contracts who’ve specified a view of their hours. It’s 57% if you include people who didn’t specify a view. Newer official figures put the same figures at around 72% and 63% respectively.

“Matthew Taylor wrote a very good report on this. He discovered that 58% of people working on zero-hours contracts do not want more hours, it suits their lives, they have flexible lives.”

Rory Stewart MP, 13 September 2018

Mr Stewart is referring to the Taylor Review into modern working practices led by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts, in 2017. It said that 68% of people in the UK on zero hours contracts didn’t want more hours, rather than 58% as Mr Stewart claimed.

The figures in the report were from the Labour Force Survey published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in March 2017. It found that 68% of people on zero hours contracts between October and December 2016 who specified a view said they didn’t want more hours. Out of everyone on the contracts (including those who didn’t say what they wanted), 57% didn’t want more hours.

Newer figures are available

Newer figures are available from the ONS covering the period from April to June 2018. They show that 72% of people on a zero hours contract expressing a preference said they didn’t want more hours, or 63% of everyone on the contracts (including the unknowns).

The average person on a zero hours contract in mid-2018 usually worked about 25 hours per week, compared to an average of 36 hours for everyone in employment.

Counting zero hours contracts

There were estimated to be around 780,000 people employed on zero hours contracts as their main job between April and June 2018. That’s roughly 2.4% of people in employment, or about one in 40 workers. This includes contracts explicitly called “zero hours”, but also arrangements with different labels such as ‘casual contracts’ or 'hours to be notified'.

In November 2017 there were estimated to be around 1.8 million contracts that “did not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work had actually been carried out under those contracts”.

Neither measure is perfect, so we use both to get a better overview of how zero hours contracts are used.

It’s also difficult to get comparisons of zero hours contracts over time, increases in the number of people on zero hours contracts between 2011 and 2016 were “likely to have been affected by greater awareness and recognition of the term “zero-hours contract”, according to the ONS. This upwards trend in the numbers has reversed more recently.

We’ve written more about how zero hours contracts work and how the figures on them are calculated here.


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