ONS rebuke Guardian for zero hour reporting

13 March 2014

‘Facts are sacred’ claim the Guardian, but some facts are evidently more sacred than others. Mr S was amused earlier this week when the Office of National Statistics rebuked the paper for its splash about the soaring number of ‘zero-hour contracts’. You may recall that the paper reported:

‘The scale of the use of zero-hours contracts has been revealed after official figures showed that nearly 583,000 employees – more than double the government’s estimate – were forced to sign up to the controversial conditions last year.’ 

Soon afterwards, the Office of National Statistics issued this statement:

‘In response to media reports about “official figures” showing a steep increase in the number of zero-hours employment contracts, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) urges users to treat the latest estimate with due caution pending the forthcoming publication of more reliable figures.’

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Whoever could they be talking about?

All of which reminds Mr S that the Guardian has got into hot water over these ‘controversial conditions’ before. Last year Private Eye exposed the extent to which the Guardian uses flexible hours in its own building. One source told Lord Gnome in August 2013: ‘we should have just gone to the canteen and asked staff here for a quote’.

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Show comments
  • Monkey

    I work for the Guardian via a contract company at the Guardian print centre north. I have a zero hour contract and am paid considerably less than the contractors regular employees for doing the same work. The guardian said that these contract people were looked after as well as their own staff and received a cost of living pay rise every year. We waited 4 years for one and finally got 2%, that was 4 years ago.

  • Seadog

    I am a care worker employed on a zero hours contract. My employer is paid by the local authority for the work carried out. If the service users are, say, in hospital then we cannot serve them and the care agency doesn’t get paid. If the work is there we get it, if it isn’t we can’t and my employer can’t get paid. Zero hours suit us both very well.

  • BoredInOxford

    When this first came up, the reports and opposition were going on about 1 million people on zero-hours contracts. []

    So perhaps the Guardian want to revisit what they wrote first time around, maybe?

  • paulme

    I’m reminded of the difference between a temp and a permanent member of staff. The temp knows he’s temporary.

  • Mynydd

    On a zero hour contract is it possible to save for, and obtain a mortgage? On a zero hour contact is the pay such that it’s above the cut off point for in work benefits, or does the taxpayer subsidise the employer?.

    • John Smith

      It puts food on the table & gives valuable experience to increase the chance of another job elsewhere
      Unless you are fuelled on self entitlement . .

    • First L

      Nope. But it lets me moonlight in the arts. When I stop wanting to moonlight in the arts, I’ll get a full time contract job.

    • Pitkapoika

      Being on the dole is a zero hours contract.

  • HJ777

    I equally like the Guardian’s assertion that these employees were “forced” to sign up for zero hours contracts. Are they slaves?

    In fact, they suit many employees very well as they also don’t have to commit to a certain number of hours or being available at certain times. They are also better than casual work because they accrue normal employment contract benefits.

    They may not be for everyone and some people may have to accept them when they would prefer a different type of employment, but they will only do so if they are better than the alternatives they have available.

    • La Fold

      Good points well presented. Ive worked on a zero hours contract before and it provided flexibilty for myself and my employer.

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