Skip to main content
School of Business and Management

School Research Seminar - An Anatomy of Zero-Hour Contracts in the United Kingdom

9 December 2015

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: FB 4.04/4.08 (Lunch from 12:30pm in the kitchen)

(40 minute talk and 20 minute Q&A)

Speaker name & affiliation

Dr Maria Koumenta, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London 

Seminar title

An Anatomy of Zero-Hour Contracts in the United Kingdom


Zero-hour contract (ZHC) jobs—jobs that lack a guaranteed minimum number of hours—regularly make headlines. We present the first attempt to locate them within existing theories of employment and empirically explore the characteristics of jobs and individuals affected by them.  Drawing on models of occupational stratification, we show that ZHC jobs will generally be concentrated in occupations with low asset specificity and high ease of monitoring and argue that their growth potential is limited. Second, we compare labour market segmentation and human capital approaches to account for their incidence amongst certain labour market groups. Finally, we estimate the labour market outcomes of ZHC jobs. Drawing on the labour market disadvantage perspective that views ZHCs as an extreme form of precarious employment, we explore whether they are associated with economic indicators of job quality and are having a scaring effect on employment trajectories.

Our empirical analysis is based on exploiting refined measures of ZHCs in the 2014 Labour Force Survey supplemented by panel data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) 2001 to 2008 allowing us to observe frequencies of transitions into and out of ZHCs.

Back to top