Nearly half of those unemployed would prefer to have no job than take up a zero-hours contract, though a quarter of job seekers said they have been offered one.
Recruitment marketplace Glassdoor carried out research into the issue, after zero-hours contracts became a hotly-contested debate in the lead up to May’s general election.
It found that nearly one in four (23 per cent) of those unemployed in the UK had been offered one of these contracts. The sentiment towards them wasn’t positive, with 47 per cent saying they had turned down jobs offered because they were zero-hours contracts.
According to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), such contracts mean employees only work when they are needed, with pay dependent on how many hours they work. At the beginning of 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported there were just under 700,000 people in the UK on zero-hours contracts.
The majority of the 1,001 job seekers surveyed said the main reason they rejected a zero-hours contract was because they needed to receive a guaranteed level of income in order to stop receiving benefits, while 44 per cent said they felt a lack of trust towards employers who offered them.
Another repeated reason given was the unpredictable hours, with 30 per cent unhappy with such irregularity. Over ten per cent had admitted to being swayed by negative press coverage, which had put them off pursuing any such employment agreements.
Some 45 per cent of unemployed jobseekers feel zero-hours contracts are exploitative, with 39 per cent taking a hardline stance and saying they’d like to see them abolished.
Glassdoor’s John Ingham said: “People that take zero-hours contracts generally do so because they feel they have to rather than they want to.”
He pointed out that while this could be interpreted as “employers exploiting the most vulnerable, namely people who really need the money”, this wasn’t the case for everyone. “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,” he said.
Ingham added a good tell can be looking at how the employer views the staff they employ – “do they value people on zero-hours contracts or simply view them as ‘an extra pair of hands’?”
From the respondents of Glassdoor’s study, a third said zero-hours contracts only benefited employers, and in terms of work motivation, a quarter said such a contract would serve to make them work harder in the hopes they could move across to a permanent contract. Nearly a fifth said it would have the opposite effect if they felt colleagues had a better contract.
The research also indicated that some didn’t understand what a zero-hours contract actually entailed, with one in five respondents unaware – which left them as the group most vulnerable to accepting deals without knowing the full implications.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.