Are Zero Hours Contracts a "Welcome Flexibility" for Workers?


Ministers will look again at the use of zero hours contracts, however, they are not looking to ban them completely. Around 1% of the UK workforce is knowingly on zero hours contracts, yet they are being used and abused by some companies.

Employment Law

What are Zero Hours Contracts?

Zero hours contracts offer no guarantees of work, with employees only working as and when needed. Often, there is no job security and sick pay is not included.

It was recently discovered that many chain stores and even Buckingham Palace use these types of contracts to employ staff.

Where Does the Government Stand on these Contracts?

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary for the coalition government, has stated that there is a place for these kinds of contracts in the working world. They provide flexibility for students and those who struggle with childcare. It is for this reason that they will not be banned outright. This is despite them being abused by those who use them and many people not even being aware that they are on a zero hours contract.

There is a lack of a clear definition when it comes to zero contract hours. As of yet, the government has not clarified what a zero hours contract is. It is because of this that many are unaware of what type of contract they are working. Official figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 250,000 workers are on zero hours contracts, but this could be many more.

What Does the Future Hold for These Contracts?

As noted, the government has already made it clear that there will not be a ban on these types of contracts. Instead, they will launch a 12-week consultation to determine how fairness can be restored to any employers or employees who choose to use these contracts.

Restricting their use will be hard and unions concur that the government is "short on solutions" with regards to rectifying the problem.

Two things that Cable wants to rectify are, the exclusivity placed on some zero hours contracts and for employers to be clearer about agreements. Exclusivity in this case, means that a worker is forbidden to work for another employer whilst working a zero hours contract.

Companies could be barred from preventing employees on zero hours contracts from doing work for other employers. Currently, arrangements like this mean that people are struggling to make ends meet or accumulate debts they cannot afford to repay.

Zero hours contracts are not unlawful, however the consequences of them can be devastating for employees. For more information on zero hours contracts, get in touch with your union rep if you have one. If not, you should consider joining a union as reps are specifically trained to deal with employment issues. If your case cannot be resolved, the union solicitor will instruct you on how to move forward with your claim.

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