The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced plans for an additional regular estimate of the number of ‘zero-hours’ employment contracts in the UK workforce.

From autumn 2013, one of ONS’s large-scale monthly business surveys will include some questions on zero-hours contracts so as to obtain robust data directly from employers.  These will be asked on a quarterly basis with the first results expected to be published in early 2014.

To ensure that users’ needs are met, ONS will undertake a short consultation exercise in September 2013 to clarify the data requirements.

The current estimate is based on an ad hoc analysis of employee responses collected in the regular Labour Force Survey (LFS). While the LFS is the largest household survey of any kind conducted in the UK, this question depends on employees knowing and correctly reporting their terms of employment.

Glen Watson, Director General of the Office for National Statistics, said: “ONS’s role is to provide reliable statistics that inform debate and improve decision making. We have followed the debate on zero-hours contracts and there is a clear need for better statistics. The best way to gather the information needed is to ask employers rather than individual employees. They are best placed to provide accurate information about the employment terms of their workforce. We plan to add some new questions to one of our business surveys to shed new light on this important issue.”