Record level of zero-hour contracts impacting pensions savings

There were an estimated 974,000 people in employment on a ‘zero-hour contract’ in their main job between October and December 2019, representing a record 3% of all people in employment, new data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

The data also showed the total UK employment rate was estimated at a record high of 76.5% – a level 0.4% up on the previous quarter, and 0.6% higher than 12 months earlier – although the figure for those on zero-hour contracts was revealed to be 130,000 higher than the same period a year earlier.

The ONS indicated there is no single agreed definition of what zero-hour contracts are, although while some contracts are explicitly called zero-hour contracts, there are other definitions available and used in publishing its statistics. The common element of the definitions is the lack of a guaranteed minimum number of hours, the ONS added.

Aegon pensions director, Steven Cameron, commented on the latest statistical release: “Today’s figures highlight the growth of the gig-economy shows no signs of letting up.

“The growing gig-economy represents a significant challenge, particularly in the area of pension savings, as currently anyone earning below £10,000 in a single employment is not automatically enrolled into a workplace pension. This leaves many of those on zero-hours contracts, a population reaching nearly one million, at risk of being excluded from retirement savings.

“The workplace pension forms the basis of many people’s retirement income and has been a successful catalyst for employees to begin saving, but much more needs to be done to help out those in the gig-economy and also those in the growing army of self-employed who are being left behind through ineligibility.”

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