Four in five employees work ‘satisfactory hours’, data suggests

Four in five employees work “satisfactory hours” (48 hours or fewer per week) and do not consider themselves underemployed, the latest official data has suggested, which experts say is a sign that concerns over an increase in insecure work are overblown.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found 81 per cent of workers born in the UK were satisfied with the number of hours they were working, with a greater proportion of women happy with their hours compared to men (86 per cent and 75 per cent respectively).

Just 7 per cent of employees reported that they were underemployed and did not have enough hours, while 13 per cent of respondents were working over 48 hours a week.

Jon Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, welcomed the ONS report and said it showed a more positive story, demonstrating concerns that the UK’s high employment rates were masking an increasingly insecure workforce were largely unfounded.

Boys added that the findings were in line with the CIPD’s most recent Megatrends report, which found that just 2.7 per cent of the UK were on zero-hours contracts. “The picture we paint – which is corroborated by the latest ONS stats – is that most people are quite happy with their terms and hours,” he said.

“The Megatrends report on secure work is slightly more nuanced than some of the narrative coming from other organisations who want to ban zero hours contracts.”

But, while Boys described the ONS’s report as “very robust with a massive sample size”, he added that the report’s choice of indicators – which included hours, pay and contracts – suggested the UK still did not have a good way to properly measure job quality.

“That’s not [the ONS’s] fault – it just says we don’t have many good indicators of job quality so it’s a particularly difficult thing to get under the bonnet of.”

The report also found overwhelming satisfaction with contracts – 99 per cent of men in full-time positions were more likely to have their desired contract type, dropping just three percentage points for men working part-time. However, 99 per cent of female employees were in desired contracts, regardless of full-time or part-time status.

The report also highlighted that the high percentage of people who work part-time in their desired contract type implies that part-time work is more often an “active choice and not simply the result of an inability to find full-time employment”