Zero-hour jobs drive East Midlands employment growth

The DWP has lauded a growing labour force, while regional jobs have been driven by a rise in zero-hours contracts.

The DWP has lauded a growing labour force, while regional jobs have been driven by a rise in zero-hours contracts.

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Controversial zero-hours labour accounts for the vast majority of jobs growth in the region, the Chad can reveal.

The latest employment figures from the ONS have revealed that 23,000 more people in the East Midlands are in work compared to the same period last year (July to September).

The DWP has lauded the rise, also claiming employment of women reached a record high.

But the vast majority of growth can be attributed to a comparable rise in zero hours contracts. Since the third quarter of 2015, the number of the precarious contracts being undertaken in the East Midlands has risen from 65,000 to 83,000 - an increase of 18,000, of 78 per cent.

The contracts still make up a small proportion of total jobs, currently standing at 3.6 per cent, but dominate in certain fields such as accommodation and food (24.7) and health and social care (24.6).

Women are more likely to take a zero-hours contract, with 3.4 per cent of all female workers engaged in one compared to 2.4 per cent of men.

Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale said: "There are far too many companies in the area that operate zero hours contracts, which are not acceptable in any form. People say they suit the employees as well but they don't and we've seen from Sports Direct that they don't.

"They are used to bludgeon employees and they are often used to threaten with being fired or not being given any more hours. If business can't operate without offering proper terms and conditions they shouldn't be allowed to operate."

Ashfield MP, Labour’s Gloria De Piero said on the stats: “The increasing use of zero hours contracts by employers means that thousands of people do not have the stability and rights that having regular work and regular pay brings.

“Labour promised to make exploitative zero hours contract illegal but sadly we didn’t win the election and this government refuses to act.

“I want to see employees given contracts that set out their working hours to relieve the stress of not knowing if you are earning enough to pay the bills from one week to the next and to ensure that they are entitled to rights such as maternity and redundancy pay.”

Nottinghamshire conservative Mark Spencer, the MP for Sherwood, argued that zero-hours only accounts for a small number of jobs.

He said: “Figures from across the country clearly show that more than two out of every three of the jobs created since 2010 are full time. That’s full time permanent jobs and security for people who have found work.

“Zero-hours contracts are perfect for many people who want to work flexibly or seasonally, and also for businesses that have peaks and troughs in demand – like Christmas-related industries for example that have much less work in June than in November. Zero-hours contracts are not, in themselves, a problem. The problem is when contracts are exploitative, or when they are abused by employers - that’s a totally separate issue from the simple existence of these contracts and we need to recognise that many people prefer that kind of flexible working.”

Employment Minister, Damian Hinds, commented on ‘positive’ new labour market statistics: “Yet again we have a strong set of figures, with employment continuing to run at a record high and unemployment falling to a 11-year low. Growth is being fuelled by full-time professional jobs while wages are continuing to perform strongly, which underlines the resilience of the UK labour market.

“There’s great news in the East Midlands where there are a near record number of people in work at 2.29 million, and the employment rate for women is at a record high.

“The measures we have taken have put our economy in a position of strength, and we will work to ensure more people can benefit from these opportunities as we build a country that works for everyone.”

Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber, said: “Zero-hours contracts provide a flexibility that works for both employers and individuals, particularly now that exclusivity clauses have been removed.

“A great strength of the East Midlands is the large mix of sectors and employment types in the region, which has helped it to buck national trends and create jobs at a faster rate than any other region.

“A flexible labour market has been key to enabling local businesses to drive the economy forward and zero-hours contracts have been an important tool in this. They enable organisations to respond to peaks and troughs in demand and employees to manage caring responsibilities, study, improve their work–life balance or to downshift from full-time work as they move towards retirement.

“Much of the negativity surrounding zero-hours contracts is based on a misunderstanding of the role they play in creating and protecting jobs. They are a vital part of a successful jobs market.”