Should zero hour contracts be banned?
A zero hour contract is generally understood to be a contract between an employer and a worker where:
- the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours
- the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.
An MP has said he will ask parliament to ban zero-hours contracts in a debate next week, as he warned that workers’ rights will deteriorate unless Westminster initiates new laws before exiting the EU in March 2019.
Chris Stephens, MP for Glasgow South West, has urged fellow parliamentarians to back his Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill 2017-19, which will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 19 January.
The SNP MP said his bill would ban zero-hours contracts, boost employment rights for gig economy workers and protect younger workers in an increasingly uncertain economy.
I have mixed views on this. Clearly there have been many reports in the press where workers have not been treated correctly with pressure to take hours as they fear if they turn them down they will be looked on less favourably in the future. The benefits of increased earning potential can often be outweighed by the risk of not enough hours when a business is experiencing a quiet time, leading to financial hardship.
On the positive side if a zero hour contract is entered into with the spirit in which they are intended, then a great deal is possible for both sides. At RAD for example we are about to commence a search for a Marketing Assistant on a part time basis. This is a new role and so the flexibility of a zero hour contract is appealing to us. The work load is likely to be variable with a certain amount of core activity, coupled with various pieces of project work. We believe in a completely flexible working environment and so this work could be completed at any time and from any location. It would for example suit someone studying a marketing qualification who is looking to compliment their academic experience with some hands on commercial exposure.
In this instance the flexibility would work both ways, we would be able to offer hours based on our commercial needs and the employee would be able to scale up or down their involvement to fit in with their other commitments. Longer term there is potential for the role to become full time dependant on the success of the start up. In this instance the arrangement would work very well and the new vacancy may not be feasible without this flexibility.
In conclusion, I definitely think there is room for this type of flexible agreement in the marketplace. The key challenge is to find a way to ensure that workers are treated fairly and this flexibility is a positive aspect, rather than a tool for employers to drive profit at the cost of employee well being.
What are your views? Do you hire on a zero hour basis? Have you worked on a zero hour agreement?
“Paul Withers is an experienced HR Recruiter with extensive exposure gained across a diverse range of industry sectors. Equally happy working at entry through to director level, he is well placed to advise on any recruitment or job search challenges that you may be currently facing.