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Zero-hours contracts are unpopular with workers

Just 35% of UK adults would consider taking on a zero-hours contract

Three-quarters (73%) of workers would request fixed hours from their employer if they were on a zero-hours contract, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

The survey of more than 2,000 UK adults found that just 35% of respondents would consider taking on a zero-hours contract. Millennials were the most likely to consider this kind of employment, with some 58% of 18- to 34-year-olds open to the idea compared with just 30% of those over 55. Likewise, while zero-hours contracts would be considered by 35% of respondents overall, 45% of Millennials say they would take a zero-hours contract, falling to just 24% among over-55s.

However, while 77% of the people surveyed prefer full-time employment, 45% would consider gig work (defined as short-term, casual work, typically organised or facilitated via mobile phone apps) or already work in this way. This number would rise if employment rights improved significantly, with two in five (41%) people saying it would make them more likely to take up gig work.

Julian Sansum, employment partner at PwC, said employees need a better deal. “A flexible labour force is one of the UK’s strengths, and key to driving competitiveness and productivity,” he said. “But it needs to be a win-win for both employers and workers. Our research shows that while many workers are open to the idea of gig working, for others concerns over job security and being able to generate sufficient income still outweigh the benefits this type of work can offer.

“A balance needs to be struck between promoting flexibility and ensuring employees have sufficient employment rights and protections. For gig working to prosper we need a tax system that is simple, workable, efficient and does not lead to distortions. Offering education and training alongside increased workers' rights will be vital to ensure that people are able to move easily between different roles and that no one gets left behind as the job market evolves.”

This research coincides with an announcement from delivery company Deliveroo, which has offered to pay sickness and injury benefits to the people who work for it if the law is changed to allow drivers to maintain flexibility.

Phillip Pepper, employment partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, explained the impact this would have on current worker classifications. “In asking for a change to employment legislation that would allow flexible workers to be offered benefits such as sick pay and insurance, Deliveroo is essentially calling for a fourth classification of worker," he said. "This new category would allow employees to be in control of their working hours while enjoying some of the rights afforded to full-time staff."

PwC's findings also coincide with the imminent publication of the Taylor Review, due to be released tomorrow.