There were a number of headlines related to zero hour contracts this week, with Andy Burnham, Stephen Lloyd and The Work Foundation weighing in on the matter. We’ll therefore take a look in this post at the headlines and examine why zero hour contracts generate so much controversy among politicians, think tanks and employment solicitors.
Andy Burnham, shadow Health Secretary in the Labour opposition, commented this week on the publication of a report by Skills for Care that 307,000 workers in the social care industry not operated on zero hour contracts. He stated that: “Good care cannot be provided on a zero hours basis and a wing and a prayer. How can people who don’t themselves have the security of knowing what they will earn from week to week pass on a sense of security to others?”
Stephen Lloyd MP, aide to Vince Cable (Business Minister at the Department for Business Skills and Innovation), also called for greater regulation of zero hour contracts this week in an interview with The Guardian. He stated that the government must investigate the rise in the use of zero hour contracts and intervene where necessary to ensure that vulnerable workers were not exploited by businesses. However, he also warned against imposing potentially stifling regulations on businesses and called for more evidence to be submitted so that the government could take an informed view of the situation.
The Work Foundation – a think-tank devoted to “work and its future” – released figures this week relating to zero-hour contracts – figures which purported to show that under a quarter of workers on zero hour contracts wanted to increase the hours that they were working under such contracts, challenging the belief that workers were being exploited by ruthless businesses. However, the Resolution Foundation – another think-tank that deals with employment and employment rights – also released a report which criticized the contracts for undermining employment rights and disadvantaging younger workers. This dovetailed with a report released last week by three Labour MPs who examined the use of zero hour contracts in Liverpool. This report found that some staff were exploited by their employers, who used the contracts to impose low wages and punish staff by arbitrarily reducing their hours on the rota.
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans said: “Zero hour contracts are a bit of a political football at the moment. Calls for greater regulation of zero hour contracts are gathering pace but until the dust settles on the matter we won’t have any idea whether such regulation is feasible or practical. Businesses and employees should try and get employment law advice if they can, to avoid legal issues”
Redmans Solicitors are employment law solicitors based in London