According to a new report from the CIPD, nearly one in five (18.6%) workers are in non-permanent contracts, down from 19.2% in 2010, and people are generally now more able to work the hours that they want.
Pockets of insecurity still exist however, and in addition to calling for further government enforcement and policy change, the CIPD has published guidance to help employers use atypical and insecure contracts responsibly, ensuring that flexibility is two-sided.
Workers' rights in the UK:
Speaking to HR magazine, CIPD head of public policy Ben Willmott said: “Organisations should take a step back and consider the extent they require flexibility in their workforce planning and how this demand can be met through both the permanent and contingent workforce.”
As a first step, Willmott advised employers to maximise the flexible working for permanent staff and then look at what atypical working arrangements suit both the organisation and the individual.
“Employers should also use clear work scheduling processes so atypical workers have appropriate notice of shifts and provide compensation if shifts are cancelled at short notice,” Willmott added.
“They should also review individuals’ atypical working arrangements at least annually to ensure that the reality of the employment relationship continues to reflect what is set out in the employment contract in terms of employment status.”
Though those on zero-hours contracts account for just 2.8% of the workforce, young people and hospitality workers are much more likely to be on them than other demographics or sectors.
Jon Dawson, group director of people development at Lore Group, told HR magazine: "Within hospitality casual contracts are typically used by organisations who have ad hoc large events business where the employee is able to pick up work when needed to either supplement their regular income or work around their studies.
"Where this can be an opportunity for both the employer and casual worker is where the organisation builds up a bank of casual workers and can offer up work that benefits both parties."
Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder at HR consultancy 10Eighty, said more flexible contracts usually benefit freelancers or portfolio careerists, and that change was needed for the benefit to be felt by more low-paid workers.
She told HR magazine: “Sadly, such contracts are often used for low-paid jobs where most of the workers would much rather have set hours and/or a reasonable number of hours guaranteed but who are desperate for work and have to take what they can get.
“It's possible that the current employment and skills crisis will improve this sort of situation.”
The CIPD report found that one in 10 (8%) UK workers would like to work more hours, and 3% are involuntarily working part-time.
The body’s full guidance on how to responsibly use atypical and insecure contracts can be found here.