Media Release

Social Market Foundation: Corbyn ban will just push more workers onto one-hour contracts

Kathryn Petrie, economist at the Social Market Foundation, commenting on Labour’s plan announced today to ban zero hours contracts said:

“The majority people on zero hours contracts do not want more hours, as shown by ONS data that found 68% of individuals on zero hour contracts do not want their work hours to increase.

“A blanket ban may result in situations where employees are offered a one-hour contract, and one major company hit the headlines in March for doing just this, and this would not combat the issues that Labour is trying to eradicate.

“Data shows that 36% of those on zero hour contracts have been with their employer less than 12 months, compared to 20% who have been with their employer over 5 years.

“Contracts that allow individuals and firms the flexibility that they require whilst ensuring workers can rely on having enough income to pay their bills is desirable, but a blanket ban is not the solution.

“One option would be the phasing out of zero hour contracts based on the length of time an employee has been working for an employer– this would reward employee loyalty.”




  • Data taken from the Office of National Statistic’s Labour Force Survey: Zero-hours contracts data tables:
  • Facts on zero hour contracts: (Oct-Dec 2016, not seasonally adjusted):
    • 5% of people ages 16-24 in employment are on zero hour contracts compared to 1.6% of those ages 35-49.
    • 22% of those who work in the accommodation and food industry are on zero hours contracts.
    • Average (mean) actual weekly hours for those on zero hours contracts is 22 compared to 31.8 for those in all forms of employment.
    • 9% of those on zero hours contracts are in FTE.
    • 68% do not want more hours compared to 19.4% who want more hours in current job.
    • 14% of those on a zero hours contract worked no hours, this compares to 16% in the year previous.
    • 36% of those on zero hour contracts have been with their employer less than 12 months, compared to 20% where the length of employment is more than 5 years.
  • The major company which introduced one hour contracts is Santander.
  • About the Social Market Foundation

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is an independent, non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this.

  • Interviews/media enquiries:

Please contact Mercedes Broadbent, SMF Communications Manager on (0)207 222 7060/


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