Back in 2014 the UK Government completed a review of so called zero-hours contracts. That review led to a change in the law in 2015 to forbid a bad element of the zero-hours contract: that, despite not being guaranteed any work, employees were forbidden by the contract from taking other work. When talking about zero-hours contracts, there’s opportunity to achieve mutual benefit.
So what does the term mean, and why so much controversy? For me the problem is that some employers abused the use of such contracts, just like some employers abused other employment responsibilities. The answer is not always to create legislation to block the use of effective tools. We need to tackle the real problem – abusive employers. We mustn’t penalise those employers who use zero-hours employment contracts legitimately to run their business, provide work (albeit ad hoc) and therefore play their part in building our economy.
About Zero-hours Contracts
A zero-hours employment contract is simply that – a contract that allows a person to be employed by a firm but does not guarantee any set number of hours. Such a contract is ideal for students who can be interviewed, reference checked by a firm and then employed during each holiday period. Many students take advantage of this knowing that that they don’t have to re-interview and re-apply for a holiday job during summer, Christmas, and Easter breaks. Such scenarios provide some security for students who can then get on with their studies in the knowledge that they have some earning capability during holiday periods.
Other scenarios where such a contract is useful include bank nurses and care workers and agency staff who are place in temporary roles with a rage of firms covering holiday and sickness absence. Zero-hours contracts work because firms have the ability to call on staff that have been interviewed, vetted. And in many cases they have also been trained and are able to provide a first class service to their employer.
They also work for the employee since they have the flexibility to choose when they work. For example, parents who wish to take holiday all school holidays will be unavailable during these periods. Employee and employer come to an understanding and both benefit. One student who has experienced a zero-hours contract for duration of his 4 year degree course commented “it works well; there is respect on both sides”. In addition some employees have multiple zero-hours contracts which suits them and gives them the flexibility and the power that they crave.
Such a contract does not suit everyone. But in a climate where we are trying to stimulate the economy and get Britain back on it’s feet, zero-hours contracts have their place. We should be focussing on employers, encouraging them to manage their workforce fairly. We should focus on ensuring employers understand their responsibilities and teach them how to effectively and fairly use the tool of zero-hours contracts.
What is difficult to understand is the outcry about zero-hours contracts. They have been around for a considerable time. Let’s not get rid of an effective tool simply because some employers abuse it. Do contact us to let us know what you think about zero-hours contracts. Have you been affected by an employer who abuses them?