Labour has announced plans to ban zero hours contracts for employees on regular hours after just 12 weeks in a job.

If Labour is elected to government on 7 May, it would introduce legislation to ban zero hour contracts in the first Queen’s Speech and prioritise it in the parliamentary timetable.

Ed Miliband will say at an event in Yorkshire today that zero hours contracts have become a symbol of a low-wage, low skill, economy where stagnant wages and falling levels of productivity have been key factors in this government’s failure to meet its deficit reduction targets.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “Zero hours are not widely used in the convenience store sector, but they can provide important flexibility for store owners and employees. We have supported measures to remove exclusivity clauses from zero hours contracts.

“We have concerns about the introduction of a 12 week limit, as this does not take into account seasonal variations in staff requirements. We would work with any future administration to ensure that regulations allow flexibility, balance and fairness.”

Miliband is expected to say: “The problem of zero hours contracts is at the heart of the key question in this election: who does our country work for? Does it work just for the rich and the powerful? Or does it work for working people - the people looking for a job, trying to find enough money to support a family, to make ends meet?

“The explosion of zero hours contracts tells us the answer to that question in Britain right now. There are now three times as many people on zero hours contracts as there were when this government came to power; a 20% increase in the last year alone, 1.8 million work contracts without guaranteed hours.”