Business Secretary Vince Cable has ruled out a complete ban on zero hours contracts due to the “welcome flexibility” they offer employers.

As Cable launched a 12-week consultation, he said the contracts had a place in the labour market but admitted there had been evidence of abuse of rights. He added that the Government might consider banning “exclusivity contracts” barring workers from working for another firm, according to the BBC.

Cable said: “Employers need flexible workforces and people should have the choice in how they work. But this shouldn’t be at the expense of fairness and transparency.

“While for many people they offer a welcome flexibility to accommodate childcare or top-up monthly earnings, for others it is clear that there has been evidence of abuse around this type of employment, which can offer limited employment rights and job security.

“We believe they have a place in today’s labour market and are not proposing to ban them outright but we also want to make sure that people are getting a fair deal.”

Zero hours contracts, which are used by some retailers, came under fire earlier this year after Sports Direct was criticised for signing 90% of its workforce up to the contracts. Boots was also denounced because its zero hours contract stated that employees may be asked to work abroad at little notice.

Zero hours contracts do not guarantee regular work for employees and sick pay is often not included. Workers are often offered shifts at short notice and some contracts oblige workers to take shift they are offered.

According to Office for National Statistics figures 250,000 workers are on zero hours contracts, about 1% of the UK workforce.