Business Secretary Vince Cable said he has asked officials to undertake work to "better understand" how the contracts work in practice.
"In the last decade there has been a steady rise in the number of zero-hour contracts," he said.
"For some, these can be the right sort of employment contract, giving workers a choice of working patterns. However, for a contract that is now more widely used, we know relatively little about its effect on employers and employees.
"There has been anecdotal evidence of abuse by certain employers, including in the public sector, of some vulnerable workers at the margins of the labour market. Whilst it's important our workforce remains flexible, it is equally important that it is treated fairly."
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Employers know they can get away with advertising zero-hours jobs because there are so many jobseekers hunting too few vacancies.
"With the tough times set to continue, now is the perfect time for the Government to be reviewing, and hopefully regulating, the increasing use of these exploitative contracts. Young people desperate to gain experience of the world of work are the most vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Not only do zero-hour contracts mask the true extent of underemployment in this country but there is a real danger that they become the employment relationship of choice for risk-averse employers, no matter how profitable their businesses may be.
"Routinely we encounter insecure contracts with no guarantee of a weekly minimum income in healthy businesses, such as big supermarkets, which have long been able to deepen workers' welfare dependency by using tax credits to top up their appallingly low wages."