Zero-Hours Working Contracts Not Always Fair

Pressure has increased recently on the Government to tackle the increasingly controversial issue of ‘zero-hours contracts’ in the wake of a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development report which estimates the number of workers affected as being as high as a million, nearly five times as many as claimed by official statistics.

Furthermore, research by the Resolution Foundation indicates that the largest group of workers on such contracts work in health and social care. More than half of those working in domiciliary care (150 000 people) are affected although many may not even be aware until their hours are cut.

Employees on zero-hours contracts generally work for lower rates of pay than their colleagues on permanent contracts, and work less and inconsistent hours which can make everyday tasks such as paying rent and organising childcare very challenging. It has also been alleged that some employers may use the promise of more or the threat of less hours as a means to exploit staff.

The Government aims to promote a ‘flexible’ workforce and such contracts are not necessarily unpopular for every employee but many find them a struggle whilst fearing the alternative of no employment. The Coalition Government seems unlikely to respond positively to Labour demands to outlaw the practice but may be forced to take some action that at least mitigates its least appealing consequences.

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