The revised estimate based on the ONS’ Labour Force survey showed that there are 583,000 people currently employed on zero-hours contracts, up from 183,000 in 2010.
Umunna said: “These new figures from the ONS, following my request to Sir Andrew Dilnot last summer, confirm that that there has been a huge rise in the numbers of people on zero-hours contracts since 2010.
“What were once a marginal and niche element of the labour market have fast become the norm in some areas and sectors under this Government.”
Business secretary, Vince Cable, said: “These figures provide welcome clarity over the number of people on this type of employment.
“While zero-hour contracts provide flexibility for some, it is also clear that there has been some abuse. This is why I launched a consultation at the end of last year to help root out abuse – like tackling the problems around exclusivity of contracts with a single employer.”
Ian Brinkley, chief economist at The Work Foundation, urged caution when taking the ‘huge jump’ in numbers between 2012 and 2013. He said: “The Office for National Statistics warns that there may be significant under-reporting in earlier years, as people previously may not have been aware that they are not a zero hours contract. The high levels of publicity in recent months mean that many more people may be reporting being on zero hour contracts in 2013 compared with 2012.
“There is also no reason to think employers have dramatically increased their use of zero hours contracts in the way suggested by the figures. The largely adverse criticism over the past twelve months of zero hours contracts may have discouraged some employers who would have otherwise have used them and we know that some employers have said they will review their use of zero hours contracts. Nor has there been any large scale one-off event – such as the Olympics – which might account for the increase.”
Recommended reading: Guide to temporary employment contracts