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Almost three-quarters of a million people in Britain now say they’re on zero-hours contracts, according to new statistics.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and show that a fifth more people now say they’re employed on a zero-hours contract than this time last year – with a total of 744,000 employees on this type of contract.

A zero-hours contract means that the employee works on a casual basis and isn’t actually guaranteed any hours in a week. This can be good if you’re looking for flexible work to fit around another job or a university degree, but it often means that the people on these contracts never know how many hours they’ll get to work in a week or how much they’ll get paid. It can be really hard to budget for those on a zero-hours contract, and some people can really struggle to cover all of their household bills.

2.4% of all people in employment are now on zero-hours contracts, up from 2% in 2014. The ONS says that the rise in the number of people reporting to be on a zero-hours contract doesn’t necessarily mean thousands of people have moved to new contracts – it could also mean that more people now understand what a zero-hours contract is. However, it shows that this type of employment is becoming more common.

Around 40% of those on zero-hours contracts said they didn’t always get the amount of hours they wanted, which could mean they weren’t offered enough hours to be able to afford their bills. If you’re on a zero-hours contract, you’ll know how hard it can be to make ends meet and you might have found that you just don’t earn enough some weeks.

Budgeting on zero-hours

The best way to budget when you’re not sure how much you’ll be bringing in each week is to start by building up some emergency cash. Work out how much you spend every month on household bills and any other financial commitments. When you have a good few weeks – where you get given quite a few hours to work – try and put some money aside. Ideally, you want to have enough saved up to cover all of your bills for two or three months. That way, if you have a few lean weeks where there’s not much work to go around, you’ll still be able to afford to pay your bills.

You should also see if there are any benefits you could claim using entitledto’s benefits calculator. For example, if you’re working an average of less than 16 hours a week, you could claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and this extra money every week could really help you to afford the things that matter.

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