The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.
Letter from Glen Watson, dated March 2014
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 Business, Innovation and Skills asking what steps he is taking to ensure the accuracy of the figures for zero-hour contracts in the Labour Force Survey. (193442)
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) information on zero-hours contracts currently comes from a question regarding flexible working. People in employment are asked what variable working arrangements, if any, they have and to select from a list which has “zero-hours contract” as an option. The results from the LFS therefore depend on respondents recognising correctly their employment contract type.
To address this ONS is currently working to produce an employer based estimate of the number of jobs where the contract does not guarantee a minimum number of hours (sometimes referred to as “zero-hour contracts”). This will provide a robust estimate of the number of jobs with this type of contract.
At end April 2014 ONS plans to produce a comprehensive report, bringing together estimates from the employer based survey alongside data from the LFS, and considering the definitional differences that exist.
Alongside this ONS is also developing and testing new questions for the Labour Force Survey regarding the guaranteed contracted hours of employees, which will identify those who have no guaranteed hours. If testing is successful, the new questions will be introduced to the LFS from January 2015, as this is the month when annual changes are made to the LFS questionnaire.