Zero-hours contracts rife in education

UCU research aims to find figure for academy alone

August 8, 2013

The education sector, including higher education, is the second most likely to use zero-hours contracts, according to a survey highlighting the widespread use of the controversial deals.

A survey of 1,000 employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, published on 5 August, indicates that between 3 and 4 per cent of the UK workforce – more than 1 million people – are on such contracts.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, revealed last week that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is reviewing zero-hours contracts to gauge the breadth of their use and impact.

The CIPD’s survey shows that zero-hours contracts – which offer workers no guarantee of the hours they will work – are most common in the hotel, catering and leisure industry, where 48 per cent of employers said they had at least one person on a zero-hours contract, followed by education (35 per cent) and healthcare ( per cent).

A CIPD spokeswoman said the figures came from the organisation’s Labour Market Outlook: Summer 2013 survey and include those working in primary, secondary, further and higher education.

There are as yet no authoritative figures on the use of zero-hours contracts in the academy. The Higher Education Statistics Agency found that 187,865 “atypical staff” were employed by higher education institutions during the 2011-12 academic year, an increase of 2.4 per cent on the previous year.

However, a Hesa spokesman said that those counted in this category also included staff on “many other types of non-standard contracts”.

The University and College Union is seeking to fill the information gap. Simon Renton, president of the UCU, said: “We are currently undertaking research in both universities and colleges, and should hopefully have some data soon.

“While there is the chance that flexible contracts work well for some people, employers must not try and hide behind flexibility when staff are made to suffer contracts that offer them few, if any, benefits and leave them in an unstable situation from month to month.”

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