Conditions of Employment

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 12th September 2013.

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Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for how many hours an employee on a zero-hours contract has to work to be counted as employed rather than unemployed in his Department's monthly employment statistics.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Cabinet Office.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Glen Watson, dated September 2013

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking how many hours an employee on a zero hours contract has to work to be counted as employed rather than unemployed in his Department's monthly employment statistics. (168202)

Estimates of people in employment on zero-hours contracts are available from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). To be classified as in employment a respondent has to report that they had either:

(i) done some paid work in the survey reference week; or

(ii) had been temporarily away from a job.

Once a respondent has been identified as being in employment, details about the type of job are collected by asking further questions.

Anybody on a zero hours contract who satisfied either of the conditions above would be classified as in employment and included in the monthly employment statistics. Anyone else on a zero hours contract, e.g. someone who did no work in the reference week and did not consider themselves to be temporarily absent, would not be classified as in employment. They would be classified as either unemployed or economically inactive, depending on their availability for work and their job search activity, which would be determined by subsequent questions. It is not possible to estimate how many people on zero hours contracts are not classified as in employment.

The classifications used in the LFS are consistent with the standards for international comparisons as set out by the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO).

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