International Journal of Law and Society

Submit a Manuscript

Publishing with us to make your research visible to the widest possible audience.

Propose a Special Issue

Building a community of authors and readers to discuss the latest research and develop new ideas.

An Investigation on the Widespread Use of Zero Hours Contracts in the UK and the Impact on Workers

The use of zero hours contract (ZHC) amongst employers in the UK continue to grow with little or no job security. There has been growing concern on how this type of employment contract is affecting workers socially, economically, health and otherwise. Existing research on ZHC focuses on low paid jobs, hence the importance of this study. The aim of this paper is to investigate how ZHC affect the worker with a focus on establishing the difference in experience between workers from across different sectors. Data for the study is obtained from conducting thirty-six semi-structured interviews with people working on ZHC. Participants for the study worked in health, education, hospitality, security, construction, and retail sectors, to understand if worker’s experience might differ based on the sector in which they work. The result demonstrated that the use of ZHC contract has spread to sectors such as education (lecturing jobs) which are generally considered as high skilled jobs as opposed to prevalence of ZHC in low skilled jobs as documented by previous research. Flexibility remained the key element of ZHC that all the workers enjoyed and would like to retain. However, the uncertainty and insecurity of the contract affects workers financial stability, social and family life, job quality and satisfaction; career progression and health. The negative impact of ZHC is largely the same with workers in lecturing job driven by insecurity and uncertainty. Although workers in the education sector (teaching staff) reported knowing their schedule for a semester or academic year, issues such as the lack of opportunities for career progression, no/limited training provided where required, stress and anxiety relating to the insecurity and uncertainties remain a growing concern. The use of ZHC contract in sectors such as education (lecturing jobs) which are generally considered as high skilled jobs is concerning and demonstrate how precarious the United Kingdom’s labour market is increasing becoming insecure.

Zero Hours Contract, Education, Employment Right, Worker’s Health, Health and Career Wellbeing, Employer Support

APA Style

Ernestine Gheyoh Ndzi. (2021). An Investigation on the Widespread Use of Zero Hours Contracts in the UK and the Impact on Workers. International Journal of Law and Society, 4(2), 140-149. https://doi.org/10.11648/j.ijls.20210402.21

ACS Style

Ernestine Gheyoh Ndzi. An Investigation on the Widespread Use of Zero Hours Contracts in the UK and the Impact on Workers. Int. J. Law Soc. 2021, 4(2), 140-149. doi: 10.11648/j.ijls.20210402.21

AMA Style

Ernestine Gheyoh Ndzi. An Investigation on the Widespread Use of Zero Hours Contracts in the UK and the Impact on Workers. Int J Law Soc. 2021;4(2):140-149. doi: 10.11648/j.ijls.20210402.21

Copyright © 2021 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Adams A. and Prassl J., (2018) Zero hours work in the United Kingdom’ Geneva: International Labour Office.
2. Adams A., Freedland M. and Prassl J. (2015) The Zero Hours Contract: Regulating Casual among 25-year-olds in England. Longitudinal and Life Course Studies 10 (2): 259–276.
3. Adams Z and Deakin S (2014) Re-regulating zero hours contracts. Institute of Employment Rights https://www.ier.org.uk/publications/re-regulating-zero-hours-contracts accessed on the 25th of December 2019.
4. Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher [2011] UKSC 41.
5. Autor D. H. and Houseman S. N. (2010) Do temporary-help jobs improve labor market outcomes for low-skilled workers? Evidence from “Work First”. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2 (3): 96–128.
6. Bakker A. B., Demerouti E., De Boer E. and Schaufeli E. B. (2003) Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior 62: 341–356.
7. Ball M., Hampton C., Kamerade D. and Richardson H. (2017) Agency workers and zero hours - the story of hidden exploitation’ Project Report. Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centres. http://shura.shu.ac.uk/16682/ accessed 20th December 2019.
8. Bender K. A. and Theodossiou I. (2018) The Unintended Consequences of Flexicurity: the Health Condequences of Flexible Employment. Review of Income and Wealth 64 (4): 777-799.
9. Booth A. L., Francesconi M. and Frank J., (2002) “Temporary Jobs: Stepping Stones or Dead Ends?” Economic Journal, 112, F189–213.
10. Briken K. and Taylor P., (2018) ‘Fulfilling the ‘British way’: beyond constrained choice—Amazon workers' lived experiences of workfare’ Industrial Relations Journal, 49 (5-6) 438-458.
11. Brown W., Deakin S., Nash D. and Oxenbridge S., (2000) ‘The Employment Contract: from Collective Procedures to Individual Rights’ British Journal of Industrial Relations, 38 (4), 611-629.
12. Burchell J. B., (1999) ‘The Unequal Distribution of Job Insecurity, 1966-86’ International Review of Applied Economics, 13 (3) 437-458.
13. Burchell, B. (2011). A temporal comparison of the effects of unemployment and job insecurity on wellbeing. Sociological Research Online, 16 (1).
14. Burgand, S. A., Brand, J. E., and House, J. S. (2009). Perceived job insecurity and worker health in the united states. Social Science & Medicine, 69 (5): 777–785.
15. Cappelli P. and Neumark D., (2004) ‘External churning and internal flexibility: evidence on the functional flexibility and core-periphery hypotheses’ Industrial Relations, 43, 148– 182.
16. Carmichael v National Power [2000] IRLR 43.
17. Cunningham I. and James P., (2014) ‘Public service outsourcing and its employment implications in an era of austerity: the case of British social care’ Competition & Change, 18 (1) 1–19.
18. Department of Business Innovation and Skills, (2013) ‘Consultation: Zero hours employment contracts’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/267634/bis-13-1275-zero-hours-employment-contracts-FINAL.pdf accessed on the 25th of December 2019.
19. Dolado J. J., Lale E. and Turon H., (2019) ‘Zero-hours Contracts in a Frictional Labor Market’ Working Paper.
20. Elliott L., (2013) ‘Zero-hours contract workers - the new reserve army of labour? The Guardian, 4.8.2013.
21. Farina, E., Green, C. P., and McVicar, D. (2020). Zero hours contracts and their growth. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 58 (3): 507-531.
22. Filimonau V. and Corradini S., (2019) ‘Zero-hour contracts and their perceived impact on job motivation of event catering staff’ Event Management journal, 23, 4-5.
23. Green, C. P. and Leeves, G. D. (2013). Job security, financial security and worker well-being: New evidence on the effects of flexible employment. Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 60 (2): 121–138.
24. Gregg P. and J. Wadsworth, (1995) “A Short History of Labour Turnover, Job Tenure, and Job Security, 1975–93,”Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 11, 73–90.
25. Henderson, M. (2019). The quarter-life crisis? Precarious labour market status and mental health.
26. Hunter (2013) ‘Banning zero hours contracts would be ‘extremely damaging’ In Fresh business thinking. Available at: http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/banning-zero-hours-contracts-would-be-extremely-damaging/. Accessed November 30th, 2019.
27. Jahn, E. J., Riphahn, R. T., and Schnabel, C. (2012). Flexible forms of employment: Boon and bane. The Economic Journal, 122 (562): F115–F124.
28. Kalleberg, A. L. and Vallas, S. P. (2018). Probing precarious work: Theory, research and politics. Research in the Sociology of Work, 31: 1–30.
29. Koumenta M. and Williams M., (2019) ‘An anatomy of zero-hour contracts in the UK’ Industrial Relations Journal, 50 (1) 20-40.
30. Koumenta, M. and Williams, M. (2019). ‘An anatomy of zero hours contracts in theUK’. Industrial Relations Journal, 50 (1): 20–40.
31. Lucas, R. (1997). ‘Youth, gender and part-time work – students in the labour process’. Work, Employment & Society, 11 (4): 595–614.
32. ONS, ‘People in Employment on Zero Hours Contract’ (2020) Released 18th February 2020. Available https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/datasets/emp17peopleinemploymentonzerohourscontracts.
33. Pennycook, M., Cory, G., and Alakeson, V. (2013). A matter of time. The rise of zero-hours contracts. Report, The Resolution Foundation.
34. Pickavance N., (2014) ‘Zeroed out: The place of zero-hours contracts in a fair and productive economy’ April. http://www.yourbritain.org.uk/uploads/editor/files/ZHCs_report_final_FINAL_240414.pdf assessed 21st October 2020.
35. Pollert A. and Charlwood A., (2009) ‘The vulnerable worker in Britain and problems at work’ Work, Employment and Society, 23 (2) 343–362.
36. Prosser, T. (2016). ‘Dualization or liberalization? Investigating precarious work in eight European countries’. Work, Employment & Society, 30: 949–65.
37. Pyper D. and Brown J., (2016) ‘Zero Hours contracts’ Briefing Paper 06553, House of Commons Library.
38. Pyper D. and McGuinness F. (2014) ‘Zero-hours contracts’ Standard Note SN/BT/6553, House of Commons Library.
39. Pyper, D. and McGuinness, F. (2018). Zero-hours contracts. Report, House of Commons Library.
40. Ravalier J., Morton R., Russell L. and Fidalgo A., (2018) ‘Zero-hour contracts and stress in UK domiciliary care workers’ Health and Social Care, 27 (2), 348-355.
41. Ravalier, J., Fidalgo, A., Morton, R., and Russel, L. (2017). The influence of zero-hours contracts on care worker well-being. Occupational Medicine, 67 (5): 344–349.
42. Reilly P. (1998) ‘Balancing flexibility – meeting the interests of Employer and Employee’ European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology, 7 (1), p. 7-22
43. Rogers K., (2017) ‘Precarious and migrant workers in struggle: Are new forms of trade unionism necessary in post-Brexit Britain?’ Capital & Class, 41 (2), 336–343.
44. Rubery J., Ward K., Grimshaw D. and Beynon H., (2005) ‘Working time, industrial relations and the employment relationship’ Time & Society, 14 (1) 89–111.
45. Ryan L., Lavelle J., O’Sullivan M., J. McMahon J., Murphy C., Turner T., Gunnigle P. and O’Brien M., (2019) ‘Defining and Regulating Zero Hours Work: Lessons from a Liberal Market Economy’ Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 9 (6), 75-93.
46. Sanwald, A. and E. Theurl, “Atypical Employment and Health: A Meta-Analysis,” Working Papers in Economics and Statistics, 2014–15, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck, 2015.
47. Standing G., (2014) A precariat charter: From denizens to citizens. A&C Black pg 73.
48. Wood J., (2016) ‘Flexibility scheduling, degradation of job quality and barriers to collective voice’ Human Relations 69 (10), 1989-2010.