Latest Public Sector News

05.08.13

Over a million workers are on zero-hour contracts – CIPD

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) surveyed 1,000 employers, with the research suggesting 3-4% of the workforce are on contracts that do not guarantee shifts or work patterns – more than four times official estimates.

Of those on such flexible contracts, 14% said their employer often fails to provide them with sufficient hours each week, and this total is higher for those who work part-time.

The total number is far higher than the estimate given by the ONS – 250,000.

Public and voluntary sector employers are more likely to use zero-hour contracts than the private sector and such contracts are most common in the hotels, care, catering and leisure sectors.

Business secretary Vince Cable is reviewing the contracts over concerns raised by unions, who have suggested banning them. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.”

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese rejected such an extreme move, and said that when used well, they can benefit both employer and employee. “There does need to be a closer look at what is meant by a zero-hours contract, the different forms that they take, and clearer guidance on what good and bad practice in their use looks like.

“Zero-hours contracts, used appropriately, can provide flexibility for employers and employees and can play a positive role in creating more flexible working opportunities.

“However, for some this may be a significant disadvantage where they need more certainty in their working hours and earnings...Zero-hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer's responsibilities to its employees.”

Cable 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... There has been anecdotal evidence of abuse by certain employers – including in the public sector.

“While it's important our workforce remains flexible, it is equally important that it is treated fairly. This is why I have asked my officials to undertake some work over the summer to better understand how this type of contract is working in practice today.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Roderick Francis   05/08/2013 at 17:46

I don't aggree with Chief executive Peter Cheese, comment one minute he is saying, when use well can be of benefit to both employer and employee. My question is what is meant by zerro hour contract, my fear is the bad employer would take advantage of the situation. I am old enought to remeber what use to happen before the Labour Act became Law under the Wilson Goverment, some employers use to take advantage of the employees and that is where we are heading back to.

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