Nearly half of jobless chose no job over a ‘zero hours’ job

London, (20 August, 2015) Zero hours contracts, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, continue to hit the headlines1. New research from Glassdoor, the world’s most transparent jobs and recruitment marketplace, reveals that almost one in four (23 percent) unemployed adults surveyed in the UK has been offered one of these contracts2. However, it seems there is a strong reluctance to accept employment under the terms of zero hours contracts as almost half (47 percent) of people surveyed who had been offered a job on this basis have turned it down.

As Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) notes3, these contracts mean employees work only when they are needed and pay depends on how many hours they work. At the start of the year, ONS reported4 that there are just under 700,000 people in the UK on zero hours contracts.

The main reasons cited for rejecting zero hours contracts were:

  • The need to receive a guaranteed level of income in order to stop receiving benefits (54 percent)
  • Lack of trust towards employers offering this type of contract (44 percent)
  • People are also unhappy with the irregular working hours these contract offer (30 percent)
  • Finally, applicants being put off by the negative press coverage about them (13 percent).

Jon Ingham, Glassdoor career and workplace expert comments: “People that take zero hours contracts generally do so because they feel they have to rather than they want to. This could be interpreted as employers exploiting the most vulnerable, namely people who really need the money. However, for others it is a useful stop-gap, it can provide valuable work experience and the flexibility can be a positive depending on your life stage. The most important issue here is to look at the attitude of the employer towards staff – do they value people on zero hours contracts simply view them as ‘an extra pair of hands’? Glassdoor’s company reviews can give the inside track.”

Sentiment Toward Zero Hours Contracts

The Glassdoor report also reveals that 45 percent of unemployed people surveyed feel that these contracts are exploitative and 39 percent would like to see them abolished. More than one in three (34 percent) feel these contracts are only beneficial for employers. When it comes to how dedicated zero hours employees are, 25 percent claim it would make them work harder as they would want to move over to a permanent contract. However, 18 percent feel they wouldn’t work as hard as their colleagues if they felt they had an inferior contract.

Reasons For Accepting a Zero Hours Contract

Fifty three percent of currently unemployed people that were offered a zero hours contract in the past accepted it. For many this wasn’t necessarily a positive move, more a necessity. More than two thirds (69 percent) simply needed the money at the time the zero hours contract was offered, 37 percent had no choice and more than one in four (27 percent) needed the work experience. However, on a more positive note, 22 percent claimed the job was just a stop-gap so the type of contract wasn’t an issue. Approximately one in five (19 percent) saw the contract as a positive and the flexibility that it offers suited them. Over one in ten (13 percent) of those that accepted would prefer to take a job than claim benefits.

Length of Unemployment Impacts Likelihood to Reject a Zero Hours Contract

The likelihood of rejecting this type of contract is influenced by the length of time the individual has been out of work. One in four (25 percent) of those that have been unemployed for 6-12 months would say no to an offer of this type, rising to 33 percent of those unemployed for one to two years. This sentiment grows to 76 percent of those that have been unemployed for more than ten years, unwilling to accept a zero hours contract.

Age Is a Factor In Acceptance of Zero Hours Contracts

The survey reveals that 40 percent of unemployed adults would accept a zero hours contract if they were offered one. This compares to 47 percent of 16-24 year olds, 50 percent of 25-34 year olds, 35 percent of 35-44 year olds, 29 percent of 45-54 year olds and 24 percent of those aged 55 years or older.

Lack of Awareness Around Zero Hours Contracts

The research also explored awareness levels of zero hours contracts amongst the sample of unemployed adults in the UK. It seems one in five of those surveyed do not know what a zero hours contract is, leaving this group the most vulnerable to accepting one of these deals without knowing the implications. This figure rises to 28 percent of those that are out of work in London and falls to just 13 percent in the Midlands.

If you are offered a zero hours contract, look on Glassdoor to find out what it’s like work within the organization, including compensation, and if that company is a good fit for you.

Notes to Editors:

  2. The survey of 1,001 unemployed adults was conducted online by Opinion Matters on behalf of Glassdoor from 8 -14 May, 2015. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact
  4. According to ONS statistics, 697,000 people are employed on a zero-hours contract in their main job representing 2.3% of the UK workforce. 72,000 of these are employed by retail and wholesale businesses, which is around 1.8% of the sector’s total workforce. ONS, 15 February 2015