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Shocking new figures from the Office for National Statistics show that British employers are using about 1.4 million ‘zero-hours’ contracts, far exceeding last years’s estimates of between 250,000 and 1 million.

This follows Ed Miliband’s recent pledge to end “exploitative” use of zero hours contracts, characterised by temporary and insecure employment, which have spread across the jobs market since the recession.

Commenting on the figures, Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Ummuna said it was a “staggering illustration of the cost-of-living crisis under this Tory-led government and a reminder that David Cameron and George Osborne are failing to deliver a balanced recovery that works for all”.

“The use of zero-hours and other temporary contracts in education is far more prevalent than many people realise,” said University and College Union (UCU) Sally Hunt.

“Without a guaranteed income, workers on zero-hours contracts are unable to make financial or employment plans on a year-to-year, or even month-to-month basis.”